Newly elected French President, Nicolas Sarkozy has appointed the first African to his cabinet, Rachida Dati, who is of Algerian and Moroccan descent, as justice minister. A calculated move by Sarkozy to appoint someone from one of the communities of colour that he recently denigrated but one who has clearly assimilated herself into “French society”. Significantly Dati, who has been described in the Spanish press as, a friend of the family, helped write legislation to prevent juvenile delinquency. As justice minister, no doubt she will be working towards implementing the legalisation and cracking down on any descent from the mass of unemployed marginalised youth of urban France.
The appointment appears to be a not very subtle attempt to send a message to people of colour in general but especially to the youth of African and Muslim descent. The message is — there is a “French Dream” like an “American Dream” and if you assimilate and become “French” (think white, secularise) then you too can make it in France.
In a recent interview, Dati admits that her route to Justice minister is atypical but that it does illustrate the wish of the President that “we can get work and we can be deserving”. She goes on to state that she started working full time at age of 16 and throughout her studies and believes she is a positive role model.
However the reality is most youth from the housing estates of urban France, even those who are graduates but because of racism, cannot get jobs relevant to their qualifications, will not relate to Ms Dati. Her appointment and position will be seen at best as a token and at worst as having “donned the white mask” as she herself states, her personal success is not representative of the community she comes from.
Sarkozy has also created a Ministry for Immigration and National Identity thus problematising immigration and race even more and placing them in direct opposition to what he considers to be “French”. The ministry will be responsible for teaching new arrivals about France, make sure they learn French, and guide them toward acquiring a French identity. Failing to take on this national tribal identity will mean you remain forever marginalised and excluded.
Being French must be the goal of every immigrant and their descendants which for Sarkozyists means wearing a white Christian mask on your black and or Muslim face. Dati, as a long time close associate and supporter of Sarkozy, has already made donned her mask.