Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Self motivation in a young 'Arabe'

It doesn't take long, once you've arrived and truly begun living in this country, to sense the deep crevice that separates the French French from the immigrant population, majoritarily from North Africa, i.e. the 'Arabes'.

Most slurs, most annoyances, most grievances, most fear towards young people, most accusations for violent crime, fall upon the heads of the young male Arabic population.

Yes, there are sufficient incidents to prove a basis for this belief, though their grievances and reasons for acting out, burning cars, etc., are as numerous, if not more so. There are also as many other individuals who are trying tremendously hard to adapt to French culture, work in school, get ahead, be honest, strive to succeed in this country their parents chose to move to.

However, France is a country lacking in civil rights laws. Americans have these, by necessity and by belief. It is still a fact that people will hire more easily new employees who resemble them, with whom they feel at ease, etc., and thus whether you call it nepotism or simply the freedom to choose, it ends up with a slant towards hiring young white men and women from 'good' backgrounds. Particularly in a country where firing people after a short trial period is quite difficult.

I bring this sensitive topic up as I went to get my IPhone fixed the other day. The screen was smashed and I hoped to be able to replace simply the screen, and not the phone. Orange, who provided me with my phone, would take it from me and charge me a bundle, but that was not my preferred solution, particularly as I do not want to be separated from my phone, nor did I want to pay a hefty bundle.

A friend mentioned an Arab run phone/internet/etc., shop in Avignon. I found it (pretty easy to do) and discovered that the individual who repairs the phones is actually in Le Pontet. They gave me his number, I arranged to go by the next morning and thus get my phone fixed on-site while I waited, rather than leave it over night.

After scoping about a bit -- the shop is not in the easiest to spot place, and only young Arabs have any idea where it is, which I discovered after asking at a magazine store, and the Post Office. I found one such young Arab, the server of a little cafe filled with Arab men, and asked him where I might find Salin to fix my phone. He gave me good directions, told me that the shop has a name - Deblock Phone - and I went on my way.

I was graciously received, my problem solved, and a pleasant half an hour was spent in the presence of a very young man, Salin, who shared his story as a Parisian who upon graduating from high school sought out internships, etc., and was refused point blank at each stop. He had put together his resume/CV as suggested by his guidance counselor, he had been well-dressed, excessively polite, but no go. He became disgusted with the system, and decided to take the situation into his own hands. He is now the main person in our large area (including many villages, and local cities) who repairs a bit of everything, computers included, but most particularly cell phones.

A good situation evolved out of pain and rejection. He is very bright and skilled and thus could create a niche for himself. But, the chip on the shoulder remains. He's successful now, and can hire others to work with him, lease out his talents, etc., And yes, there are others like him who run the internet cafes, long distance phone card sellers, etc., They are working hard, creating businesses that everyone needs, and getting ahead. But, they still feel dismissed by the powers that be.

It's not easy living amidst racism, judgment by your origins, etc., I can see that the demographics are changing, that these young men and women are striking out on their own, adapting to the real conditions of this country and in so doing, learning to their chagrin and pain that the system set up for white French people doesn't always apply to them. I wonder for how much longer we'll hold to these rigid formulas of entering the working world when they only work for a portion of the population?

School - internships - first job(s) - hired for life.

Whether we wish it or no, things will change. Keep watching and reading.


Vagabonde said...

I enjoyed reading your thoughtful post. I think that people in most countries are prejudiced against someone. In France they are certainly prejudiced against “les Arabes.” When I was growing up there were none around us and I was the only one with a foreign name, impossible to write, since my father was Armenian. I was the “other” and it was not fun, even painful at times. I thought coming to America would be better but then now I am still the foreigner with my accent and French people are not liked much here. The US is very racist and also anti-Muslim. Each country has the minorities they don’t like – the Germans don’t like their Turkish minorities, the Turks don’t like their Armenian minorities and so on. It is not a nice picture anywhere. Although I have to admit that when I go to France and watch the TV I see more Arabic names than before – so maybe there is an improvement.

nathalie said...

A thoughtful post.

Yes Vagabonde it is some improvement in the public sector but the vast majority of immigrants (or second generation) continue to be discriminated against. How not to turn to drugs and other illegal activities if you can't get a decent job? Not everyone is an entrepreneur like Salin.