Politics, Race

Guest post by tf

What is the CRAN? If you rely on The New York Times for your news, you don’t know. Same thing if your source is The Wall Street Journal. Or The Washington Post, or the Los Angeles Times, or the The Boston Globe, or The Miami Herald. The only major daily paper in the English language that seems to have covered the story of the founding of the CRAN, as best I can tell, is The Sydney Morning Herald, which ran an unsigned Australian Associated Press story on November 27th. (Please comment if you find any other examples of papers that covered this story.)

You would think it would be news. Publishers were happy to sell papers with above-the-fold images of burning cars in France. In this context, the state of race relations in France, and the issue of France’s relationship with its colonial past, have received some coverage (though the favored story relating to the recent suburban violence was of course radical Islam). Nonetheless, silence.

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The CRAN is the Conseil représentatif des associations noires, or Representative Council for Black Associations, founded on November 26th in Paris. It is an umbrella organization, bringing together a large number of black groups in France (variously reported as fifty or sixty). CRANs ambition is to provide a significant voice at a national level for the concerns of blacks in France. Patrick Lozès, a member of the center-right UDF party, is the CRANs founding president.

Organizations that are based on ethnic or racial identity face considerable suspicion in France, on the grounds that they run counter to the egalitarian principles of the republic. The term of contempt for such organizations, as well as for organizations based on religious identity or sexual identity, is that they are communitarian.

The negative reaction to the CRAN is similar to the negative reaction, in 2002-2003, to the creation of the Conseil français du culte musulman (CFCM), or French Council for the Muslim Religion. In that case, it was Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy who pushed for the establishment of an organization that could dialog with the state. Though the founding of the CRAN was more of a grass roots effort than the founding of the CFCM, the state still played an important symbolic role. The founding meeting of the CRAN was held in a room of the National Assembly, a point that was not lost on Mounia Daoudi, reporting for Radio France International (my translation):

The choice of a room in the National Assembly for bringing the Representative Council for Black Associations to its baptismal font is not anodyne. No other location could have, in effect, better illustrated the republican approach that animates the promoters of this new federation.

The the extent that communitarian is a bad word in France, republican is good.