The player of the France team, Kylian Mbappé, from the popular districts of Seine-Saint-Denis, is known to express himself from time to time on social networks. This time, he reacted strongly to the news following the tragic death of Nael, a 17-year-old teenager during a traffic check involving two police officers. His hard-hitting phrase posted on his Twitter account, “I hurt my France”, quickly sparked wide dissemination on social networks and was widely relayed by the major media.
This statement, both moving and striking, poignantly expresses the feeling of helplessness and disgust felt by many young French people with an immigrant background. For a long time, they have faced a reality marked by injustice and discrimination on the part of the French state. Nael’s death is just one of many triggers for a deeper malaise that runs through our society. The suffering experienced by these young people reveals the problems that France as a whole is facing.
Nael’s case is only the straw that broke the camel’s back. It is added to the long list of injustices experienced by young people in the neighborhoods for many years, which we have never ceased to demand. With the advent of social networks and the growing use of mobile phones, these injustices are increasingly highlighted through videos showing violent arrests, repeated provocations and insults uttered by certain officers during simple checks. Images, abundantly shocking, widely shared online, testify to the apparent impunity enjoyed by some members of the police. It is often observed that the police and the justice system encounter difficulties in reacting and in fully sanctioning the police officers involved. However, it is unfortunately found that when the case concerns a young person of foreign origin, the sanctions are often applied quickly and severely. This disparity in the treatment of cases raises issues of discrimination and unfair justice, calling into question equal treatment before the law.
The accession of Nicolas Sarkozy to the presidency of France in 2007 marked the beginning of recurring controversies concerning the young people of the districts. His famous declaration when he addressed a resident on a slab in Argenteuil, “we are going to clean the city with a Karcher”, was the starting point for the progressive radicalization of the political and media discourse relating to these working-class neighborhoods. Since then, many debates have emerged around topics such as the wearing of the veil, the burkini, halal meat, halal supermarkets, separatism, Islamo-leftists, football players not fasting during Ramadan, as well as the place of Islam in the Republic. More recently, the controversy surrounding the abaya has also sparked heated debates.
This media attention to superficial topics completely overlooks the real challenges that young people face on a daily basis. On the contrary, it contributes to reinforcing racist and xenophobic mentalities and behavior among certain French citizens. This is fueled by the constant dissemination of negative discourse with regard to young people from vulnerable neighborhoods. Interestingly, many studies have found increased support for far-right parties among residents of rural areas, where populations of foreign origin are often sparse or even non-existent.
The stereotypes and prejudices that permeate their daily lives are much more worrying than the endless debates on subjects that only increase their marginalization. The latter are confronted with color checks, discrimination in employment and housing, unemployment and unequal opportunities, all problems that have been largely neglected.
Nael’s tragic death was sadly predictable, and it is fortunate that the video was released to highlight the police officer’s responsibilities. However, how many Nael have been subjected to checks, humiliations and imprisonments without being filmed, without any video showing their fate? How many scenes have been set up from scratch to imprison innocent young people?
The government indeed bears a heavy responsibility in this situation, and it is unacceptable that we continue to see cases of impunity and racism within the police and sometimes even within State institutions. It is understandable that French children from diverse backgrounds may find it difficult to retain their faith in a system that marginalizes and oppresses them on a daily basis.
It is essential that the government take concrete measures to remedy this situation. This includes establishing accountability and transparency mechanisms within law enforcement to ensure that abuses and racist acts are properly investigated and sanctioned. It is also important to promote in-depth and continuous training for law enforcement officers, focusing on the fight against discrimination, respect for human rights and the promotion of equality.
It is necessary to implement these actions in a proactive and systematic way, in order to restore trust and guarantee equal treatment for all French citizens, regardless of their origin. Only a strong and continued commitment to fight racism and discrimination can create a fair and equitable system for all children in the nation.
While waiting for the arrival of the messiah, young French people from working-class neighborhoods unfortunately continue to suffer hardships and confrontations with the police and state institutions, while hearing the slogan of the French Republic: freedom , equality fraternity !