PARIS — It is difficult to go more than a day in France without hearing someone express the conviction that the greatest problem in the country is its ethnic minorities, that the presence of immigrants compromises the identity of France itself. This conviction is typically expressed without any acknowledgment of the country’s historical responsibility as a colonial power for the presence of former colonial subjects in metropolitan France, nor with any willingness to recognize that France will be ethnically diverse from here on out, and that it’s the responsibility of the French as much as of the immigrants to make this work.
In the past year I have witnessed incessant stop-and-frisk of young black men in the Gare du Nord; in contrast with New York, here in Paris this practice is scarcely debated. I was told by a taxi driver as we passed through a black neighborhood: “I hope you got your shots. You don’t need to go to Africa anymore to get a tropical disease.” On numerous occasions, French strangers have offered up the observation to me, in reference to ethnic minorities going about their lives in the capital: “This is no longer France. France is over.” There is a constant, droning presupposition in virtually all social interactions that a clear and meaningful division can be made between the people who make up the real France and the impostors.One naturally wonders when, or if, France will ever pay off its supposed debt to its ex-colonials. Come to think of it, isn't it France that's being colonized now?
I became a philosopher, like many others, in large part because I imagined that doing so would enable me to rise above the murky swamp of local attachment, of ethnic and provincial loyalty, and to embrace the world as a whole, to be a true cosmopolitan. Yet history shows that many philosophers only grow more attached to their national or ethnic identity as a result of their philosophical education.And here I thought philosophers were supposed to be wise men. Complaining about tribalism among human beings is like complaining about how human beings breathe so much oxygen: it's just the way we are, man. The more committed our ruling class is to erasing borders, rising above local attachments and whatnot, the more ruthless and intrusive their efforts at suppressing hatefacts must be. We see it here in the United States by the media's general reluctance to comment on the race of suspects. We see it in the consistent refusal to acknowledge why the Gap will never be closed.
Multiculturalism is an insidious form of cultural genocide. It might be rolled back peacefully or, as is more likely the case each passing day, it will be rolled back with bloodshed. But rolled back it will be eventually.