You’re Worth It… Only of You are White – Racism in France

25 Jun

Hat Tip to NewsOne on this one.

French cosmetics make L’Oreal is in trouble again. This time losing a lawsuit in the French Supreme Court over overtly ordering it’s sales management to hire only white women to work in the stores in France. In a landmark case, the Garnier division of the beauty empire, along with a recruitment agency it employed, were fined €30,000 (£20,300) each after they recruited women on the basis of race. The historic ruling – the first time a major company has been found guilty of systematic race discrimination in France – saw a senior figure at the agency given a three-month suspended prison sentence.

Racial discrimination in employment is a huge problem in France with a recent survey finding three out of four firms preferred white workers.

This is fresh on the heels of a scandal last year, where the company presented a “newly Nordic” Beyonce Knowles as their Cover Girl…

The American Beyonce left, and the "You're Worth It" Beyonce from L'Oreal

The American Beyonce left, and the "You're Worth It" Beyonce from L'Oreal

La Cour de Cassation, the French supreme court, heard that in 2000, Garnier, L’Oreal’s beauty division, was looking to recruit a sales team for the Fructis Style haircare range.

When the brief went out, one of the requisites was that staff should be “BBR”, an acronym for the colours of the French flag and widely used to signify someone who is white and of French descent. It also wanted the women sized between 8 and 12.

The case was brought by anti-racist group SOS Racisme after it was discovered that only 4.65% of (the 2,000)  sales staff hired were black, Asian or Arab despite those groups covering 38.7% of potential candidates.

In India, actress and L’Oreal brand ambassador Aishwarya Rai, who starred in ‘Bride and Prejudice’, refused a request from the manufacturer to appear in a campaign for a skin whitening cream.

The decision was likely driven in part by a campaign by the French President’s wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, who last year issued a manifesto in major French Paper –

PARIS – Inspired by Barack Obama, the French first lady and other leading figures say it’s high time for France to stamp out racism and shake up a white political and social elite that smacks of colonial times.

A manifesto published Sunday — subtitled “Oui, nous pouvons!”, the French translation of Obama’s campaign slogan “Yes, we can!” — urges affirmative action-like policies and other steps to turn French ideals of equality into reality for millions of blacks, Arabs and other alienated minorities.

“Our prejudices are insidious,” Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, a singer and wife of President Nicolas Sarkozy, said in an interview with the Journal du Dimanche newspaper, which published the manifesto. She said she hoped the “Obama effect” would reshape French society…

Sarkozy has suggested affirmative action for France, but later backed away from the idea since it goes against France’s ideals of egalitarianism, which dictate that the country not classify its citizens according to race. This idea that everyone is just “French” means there are no census or other national figures calculating how big the country’s minority groups are.

President Nicolas Sarkozy’s  justice minister, Rachida Dati, (whose story would make an America Republican blush with envy) the first woman of north African origin to hold a ministerial post (along with Rama Yade of Sengalese extraction as Cultural Minister), has ruled that special departments in prosecutors’ offices should be set up to deal with race discrimination. Unfortunately, Sarkozy dismissed both women last week in a Cabinet Shakeup.

French Minister of Justice, Rachida Dati

French Minister of Justice, Rachida Dati

Minister Rama Yade

Minister Rama Yade

Perhaps now that the French Courts are aligning behind anti-racism, there may be some movement. One of the key issues, as it is in several other European countries, is the “old-boy” University System which serves as a “BBR” gatekeeper to access to industry and government jobs.

The impact of this court decision could be interesting.

1 Comment

Posted by on June 25, 2009 in The Post-Racial Life


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

One response to “You’re Worth It… Only of You are White – Racism in France

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: