There are only two families in the world, as my grandmother used to say; the haves and the have-nots. --Sancho Panza in Don Quixote de la Mancha, by Miguel de Cervantes
Hey, you! Yeah, you, sitting in front of your TV or computer screen, watching pictures of France burning. Maybe you're not all that upset that the French are getting what you consider to be their comeuppance for thumbing their nose at Operation Iraqi Freedom. You may even revel in the Franco-bashing statements made by Bill O'Reilly, including about the French people's supposed aversion to personal hygiene, and the fact that THEY DON'T SPEAK ENGLISH (the uncivilized bastards). You're probably smug in the assurance that the French riots are just another one of those disasters that only happen in some other part of the world.
I have some news for you: the same conditions which gave rise to the rioting in France exist right here in the good old U.S. of A. In fact, in some ways they're even worse here than they are in France. We know that racial and economic tensions can, and have, reached flashpoints in this country. Los Angeles in 1992, the unrest in New Orleans that followed the natural selection of African Americans as the victims of government ineptitude following Hurricane Katrina, and the rioting in Toledo last month in response to a hate group's demonstration are just the most recent examples of a phenomenon with a rich history, much of which has had a racial etiology.
The rioting in France is a manifestation of the disenfranchisement of a significant subculture in that country, African and Arab immigrants (i.e., black people in a white society), whom the government has taken great pains to marginalize and relegate to second class citizenship status. These immigrants, despite being French citizens, are already the victims of a form of apartheid not unlike what existed in South Africa. But it didn't help that situation much when the French interior minister referred to the rioters using a word as inflammatory to them as the n word would be to African Americans here.
The uprising in France is also the natural consequence of a worldwide phenomenon, but one which has gotten, and is getting, progressively worse in this country: the gap between the haves and the have-nots. A recent study by the United Nations Human Development Report Office shows the bad news that of the 124 nations studied, the U.S. ranks 74th, behind Vietnam, but the good news, that it still ranks slightly ahead of Iran. France comes in at 34th. This mirrors similar studies done by the World Bank and by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the latter of which shows that, of the 27 member countries, the U.S. ranks 24th. The disparity is no more graphically illustrated than in the comparison of executive to worker compensation. According to a recent survey, executive compensation in the U.S. is over 400 times what line workers make. That same comparison is only 15 times in France.
On virtually any measure you care to name, the equivalent subculture in the U.S. to the one rioting in France enjoys a much lower quality of life than the middle class. Unemployment levels, incarceration levels, income levels, education levels, health levels are all disproportionately higher among African Americans. The natural consequence of this increasing gap is, inevitably, disaffection (to put it mildly), and, ultimately, violence.
Now, would you like a serving of freedom fries with that dose of reality?