Saturday, June 14, 2008

Blind to prejudice, you can say or hear "Infested by the druggies" and not blink

The Saturday Profile in The New York Times on June 14, 2008 is of Fadela Amara, the French Secretary of State for Urban Policy in the government of President Nicolas Sarkozy. Amara is a strong advocate for the immigrants in France, many of them Muslim. She tells of her radicalization at age 14 when her 5-year old brother was killed by a drunk driver, and the police used racist remarks toward her parents.
In Steven Erlanger's profile, Ms. Amara is working with a street theater group, the Company of Contrarians. The founder of the company, Neusa Thomasi, 46, was born in Brazil. Ms. Thomasi says, as quoted by the Times reporter,

"Immigrants understand the problems of immigrants," . . . describing the need, echosed by Ms. Amara, "to reoccupy public spaces infested by the druggies and the criminals."
"Infested by the druggies." How is this term different from a racist slur?

Ms. Amara says,
Our tenets defend equality, condemn cultural relativism and combat archaic traditions. . .This is why I claim the heritage of the French Revolution. I'm universalist. I believe strongly in the values of the republic -- liberty, equality, fraternity -- and secularism.
I wonder, how do Ms. Amara and other self-proclaimed claimants to the values of the French republic -- liberty, equality and fraternity -- think the families of drug users hear the phrase "infested by the druggies"?

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