Battle Over the Banlieues


David Rieff in the New York Times Magazine:

“If I could get my hands on Sarkozy, I’d kill him.” I had asked Mamadou, a wiry young man wearing gray camouflage pants and a tank top, what he thought of France’s former minister of the interior, who is also the right’s standard-bearer in this spring’s presidential elections. “I’d kill him,” he continued and then paused as if savoring the thought. “Then I’d go to prison. And when I got out, I’d be a hero.”

We were in Les Bosquets, one of the impoverished housing projects that are scattered across the banlieues, the heavily immigrant working-class suburbs that surround Paris. I asked Mamadou’s friend Ahmad if he felt the same way. He said he would not go that far. “I wouldn’t kill him, no,” he said. “But I hate him. We all hate him.”

A lot of this was bravado, of course, friends showing off for friends in the disaffected, hyperaggressive macho style that now predominates among France’s disenfranchised suburban young. As a group, their unemployment rate stands at around 40 percent. Seen from the Paris familiar to most foreigners or, for that matter, to most native Parisians, Les Bosquets seems like another country. And yet it takes only about an hour to get there from the Place de la Concorde.

More here.