Young, Unemployed and of Color in France

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Steve Inskeep talks with Robert Lobe, who lives in one of the towns affected by rioting in France. Lobe is a 25-year-old college graduate who is unemployed and living with his parents. His parents came from Cameroon, but he was born in France. Lobe says the Paris suburbs are places of isolation — and frustration.


This week, we're hearing several views on the riots in France, and the latest comes from Robert Lobe(ph). He lives in one of the affected towns. He's 25 years old, a college graduate, unemployed and still living with his parents. He says the Paris suburbs are places of isolation and frustration. His parents came from Cameroon, though he was born in France.

Mr. ROBERT LOBE (Unemployed College Graduate): I was born here. I've been raised here, you know. France is all my life.

INSKEEP: Do you think that you are fully accepted as a Frenchman?

Mr. LOBE: No. Definitely, I'm a second-class citizen. Today, you know, I've been checked out by police officer twice.

INSKEEP: Today you've been checked out by police officers.

Mr. LOBE: Yeah, I went to parish, you know, and I've been checked out twice by police officer.

INSKEEP: Do you think they look at you and wonder if you're about to set a car on fire?

Mr. LOBE: Definitely. I mean, it's kind of thing, you know, you are black so you are more likely to do crime, you are more likely to sell drug or you are more likely to do bad thing, you know what I mean?

INSKEEP: Do you think that the rioters have made it easier for white Frenchmen to have those stereotypes because they've gone out in the streets and actually destroyed things and stolen things and set fires?

Mr. LOBE: I put myself in white men shoes, you know, and I say, `OK, that's normal.' Because, you know, when they talk about blacks on TV, you know, they talk about bad things. So, obviously, you know, if I was a white man, you know, I would say, `OK, look at that.' So I mean, I understand, you know, the logic of police officer. Everything else I do not accept that kind of logic, but I do understand.

INSKEEP: Have you participated in the violence yourself?

Mr. LOBE: No. No, no.

INSKEEP: Do you have friends who are participating?

Mr. LOBE: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, not my close friend but some people that I know.

INSKEEP: Are most of them relatively young men like you?

Mr. LOBE: They were younger, I mean, between 13 and 18 years old.

INSKEEP: What is it they actually say? How do they explain what they're doing?

Mr. LOBE: They're young so they don't really think, you know, about anything. You know what I mean? So they just following people, you know. They assault people, ...(unintelligible) TV and they just want to do the same thing, you know.

INSKEEP: They just see this happening on TV and they think it would be a nice thing to do.

Mr. LOBE: Yeah, most of them. To be honest, yeah, most of them.

INSKEEP: You've described what you feel as great unfairness in French society...

Mr. LOBE: Yeah.

INSKEEP: ...and segregation.

Mr. LOBE: Yeah.

INSKEEP: Does that unfairness justify what your friends and neighbors have done in recent days?

Mr. LOBE: No way. No way. No way. ...(Unintelligible) I was very angry about what the minister of the interior said, you know.

INSKEEP: Well, the minister of interior called the rioters scum.

Mr. LOBE: Yeah, yeah. And ...(unintelligible) I was angry, you know, about all this segregation, you know, and stuff like that. My parents, you know, always told me that the only way, you know, the only way to prove that they are wrong is education, not by burning car or whatever, you know, but to get educated, integrate the system and then try to change the rules in our favor.

INSKEEP: We've been talking to Robert Lobe. He's a French citizen in the suburbs of Paris. Thank you for speaking with us.

Mr. LOBE: You're welcome.

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