De Boishue book sparks race row

August 4, 1995

A heated row has blown up over allegedly racist passages in a book written by France's secretary of state for higher education, Jean de Boishue. The opposition Socialist Party has called for his resignation.

The book, Banlieue mon amour, gives a series of thumb-nail sketches of suburb dwellers, including those of the "wandering Jew", the African "inseminator" and the Arab who will "buy up" his run-down area.

The book was published in May, just before Mr de Boishue entered the government. It is based on his experience as mayor of the suburb of Bretigny-sur-Orge.

He now faces court proceedings in September. A suit has been filed by a young Caribbean rap musician who believes he is portrayed in one of the cameos. He accuses Mr de Boishue of "racial insults" and "incitement to hatred and discrimination against Jews, blacks and Arabs".

The secretary of state reacted to a report on the affair in the French newspaper Le Monde, saying the article was "purely defamatory" and announcing he would seek legal redress. His editor, Denis Tillinac, head of La Table Ronde, who is also cited in the court case, vigorously defends the book against what he describes as the onslaught of political correctness.

The portrait of the "wandering Jew" describes how "Vital" arrived from Istanbul, choosing Paris after his "six brothers and sisters had already colonised the four corners of the earth".

"In a real city, there is always room for a real shopkeeper; for a Jew, there is always a street with a Jewish sign . . . he colonised the street cafes, gesticulated with his neighbours and plunged with pleasure into the never ending flow of the colourful crowd," writes de Boishue.

In the chapter "Le F3 de L'Oncle Tom" (Uncle Tom's council flat), he describes Tom the rapper, whose father died for France on a distant African front and who campaigns against his mayor - the portrait which a young resident of Mr de Boishue's municipality claims to be his.

The chapter goes on to describe the way in which, "generally", Africans arrive on council estates: "First is the patriarch, the great inseminator, the polygamist, who procreates assembly line-style," then neglects his children's upbringing while taking over the family allowance.

Mr de Boishue also comments on Arabs, writing that satellite dishes on a building are a sign that an Arab lives there. "Satellite dishes connect them to God, brother countries or the voice of the masters." It continues: "Only sand and camels are lacking. No, don't smile! One day they will buy up the area; they have not thought of it yet because recently freed slaves do not have the time to think of everything."

The book contends that concepts such as world culture or black identity prevent young people's "integration" into French society and attacks the former Socialist culture minister Jack Lang in particular for promoting alternative cultures.

Henri Emmanuelli, general secretary of the Socialist Party, argues that it is "unacceptable" that a minister "in charge of young people's education and student training can keep such a portfolio after using racist and anti-semitic insults . . . even the extreme right hesitates to use".

A Paris court will have to decide in September whether the book is a "song of tenderness" to immigrants, as editor Tillinac says, or "racial insults" as SOS Racisme, an anti-racist group, claims.

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