How Does Your Country Talk About Race? The election of President Barack Obama has prompted new discussions about race in the U.S. The Obamas' story has had a similar effect abroad. What do conversations surrounding race and diversity sound like where you live?
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How Does Your Country Talk About Race?

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How Does Your Country Talk About Race?

How Does Your Country Talk About Race?

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This is Talk of the World from NPR News. I'm Don Gonyea in Washington, D.C. The presidential campaign and the election of Barack Obama met(ph) more and more Americans - we're talking about the issue of race in America. And with the first African-American family to live in the White House, that conversation will continue and look for that conversation to evolve. Well, what about the rest of the world? Outside the U.S., there is also a conversation underway, and it is driven in part by Mr. Obama's story.

Today, we ask our audience to put down the phone - that's our U.S. audience - and we continue a series where we invite listeners around the world to talk about the issues that affect us all. How do you talk about race in your country? When is the last time you had a conversation about race? At work? At home? With whom? Give us a call, and we will call you back on our dime. Our phone number is country code 1-202-513-2008. Again, it's 1-202-513-2008. You can also reach us by email; that address is And you can call or text us via Skype, username talkoftheworld. Again, that's on Skype, username talkoftheworld. We are going to begin our conversation with NPR's Sylvia Poggioli. She is our senior European correspondent, and she joins us from Perugia, Italy. Sylvia, welcome.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI: Thank you, Don. It's good to be with you.

GONYEA: I'm thrilled to have you here. I am one of those millions of listeners who anxiously listens to your reports from Europe on Morning Edition and All Things Considered. So, it's good to be talking...

POGGIOLI: Thank you.

GONYEA: To you about an issue that you have covered significantly. And in fact, you did a series of reports for NPR last month on the issue of race in Europe. Why don't we start by having you tell us, how did President Obama's win in the election change the conversation about race in the countries that you visited?

POGGIOLI: Well, I can't even begin to describe you just, you know, how big an impact the election of Barack Obama had on European minorities. It forced, really, you know, the continent to look at its own mirror and realize that it could decades for a similar achievement here. You know, in Germany, in France, in Italy, the three countries I traveled in, millions of people of immigrant heritage have, you know, little or no political representation. There are hardly any minorities in state institutions, the mainstream media, police or judiciary. And the whole issue of race - the word race is something, in some ways, very new. In Germany, it's just a word that doesn't exist. Germans are convinced that they are mono-racial society. There are 500,000, at least, blacks in Germany, but they are totally ignored.

In France, the word race is taboo because the concepts of France egalitarianism and everybody is the same, their citizenship and there is no such thing as race. And so, it's completely new. And - but you know, there is - one of the very the few minority representatives who was not elected but was appointed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy is the Senegalese-born Rama Yade. She's the under secretary of state for human rights. She described Barack Obama's election as the fall of the Berlin Wall times 10. And in my encounter with Europe's minorities, I found an incredible new nuance, that enthusiasm, a budding minority consciousness and, really, a new desire to fight for their civil rights.

GONYEA: And again, what we want to do in this program is not talk so much about how the view of America has changed around the world because of the election of President Obama, but to see what kind of discussion it has sparked within these countries - about race within those countries. And you said, I mean, a couple of things there; it's like the Berlin Wall falling down. I mean, does that mean people are suddenly very chatty about this topic in discussing it?

POGGIOLI: I'd say minorities are very chatty. Let's say - what should we call them? It's always hard to find the words to this. Let's say, so-called white Europeans, the old stock or Europeans of the roots, as they call themselves in France. There is not too much desire. I mean, there're certainly many, you know, liberal-minded progressive people who are very aware that minorities in Europe are treated rather poorly. But the new conversation is among minorities themselves. Up until now, when we've talk about immigrants - and in fact, the great, great majority of immigrants in Europe are Muslims, especially in France and Turks in Germany, North Africans in France, Southeast Asians in Britain, primarily. And so, there's always been much more the issue of discussion about religion rather than about race. Now, all of a sudden, Barack Obama's election has shown how many people - how many blacks there are in Europe, huge numbers. In France, there are very large - I don't remember now the number, but very many - and many of them very well-educated people who come from Africa. They come with degrees, but they end up working in the most horrible jobs. So, what it is - the conversation now is among the minorities themselves.

GONYEA: When you say...

POGGIOLI: And that's the new thing.

GONYEA: When you say in France, you don't know what the number is, I mean, part of it is because you don't have the number off the top of your head, but part of it, too, is they don't even keep statistics.

POGGIOLI: That is exactly right. It's against the law to have any kind of census that states your religion or your ethnic origin in France. And now the new thing that's coming out and it's being pushed up by - from minorities is the idea of affirmative action, which in France has this absurd strange way. They call it positive discrimination. Don't ask me how that expression came about.

(Soundbite of laughter)

POGGIOLI: But they call it affirmative action, which is in contrast - it's actually in opposition to the concept of a colorblind society, which is what the French would like to think of themselves as, but they're not. That is now coming up. And it's being pushed by a man of Algerian origin, who has become - he's a self-made millionaire, Yazid Sabeg, and he has just been appointed last month by President Sarkozy as his new immigration minority czar. And he is the big proponent of some form of affirmative action, and they're beginning to talk about it in some of the universities in France and also in schools, because kids they're well-educated, if they're - excuse me - if they're educated, they have a chance, but they go into a job - apply for a job, the minute people look at their face or see their last names or see where they live, usually they don't get the job. There's a tremendous amount of discrimination.

GONYEA: What does it mean in France to be African descent, to be, you know, from one of the Arab countries, to be Muslim, how does that affect once life day to day?

POGGIOLI: Well, those who live in these awful sort of the (unintelligible), these big cities, these big housing projects, on the outskirts of the big city; they're pretty horrible places, hard to reach with bad connections to the city. There's nothing there; it's very bad. They live in a very - these ghettos are just awful. And - but what is very interesting - I also covered France during the riots of 2005, and seen from outside, many people were talking about it as, oh, the young Muslims are - it's a big rebellion, and it's all religion-motivated. It wasn't at all. It was very much social motivations - lack of jobs, lack of opportunities - and what was fascinating was that these kinds do identify with being French; they do believe in the ideals of French society. They - when they were demonstrating against the police, they would show their French ID and say, we want an equal chance, too. And I think that's what is the most extraordinary thing that's coming out of these countries right now.

GONYEA: Yeah, it was after those riots, wasn't it, when now President Sarkozy was - what was his position at that point? But he uttered the phrase referring to those who were rioting as scum, right?

POGGIOLI: That is correct. He was the minister of the Interior, and he has not gone very often into those ghettos even since he has become president. But he is one of the European politicians who first - who, perhaps more than any other, understood the impact of Barack Obama's election. And he was the first to really admit and acknowledge that there is this tremendous lack of opportunity. To be honest, Sarkozy himself is descended of immigrants, of Hungarian immigrants, and so, he's a little bit outside the established - the traditional French establishment himself. So, he had, I think, a greater sensitivity. In fact, as I said, he appointed Yazid Sabeg immigration czar with these issues, and I think he will be promoting some kind of affirmative-action policies in France in the near future.

GONYEA: Sylvia, we are going to go to a phone call, if I can do this properly. I believe we have Croix here, Croix from Heidelberg, Germany.

And let's see...

Croix from Heidelberg, are you there?

CROIX (Caller): Yes, I'm here.

GONYEA: What can we do for you? What's your question today?

CROIX: Well, I just wanted to inform the public in the Unites States and all the listeners of your radio that in Germany, I've made the (unintelligible) that if you belong to a minority, you are white or you are black, that makes no difference. You are treated like a beast of the forest(ph). So, there is no discussion at all. There is a world between you as a minority member and between the natives here, and the world is built up by the natives.

GONYEA: And do you see any change, any movement, at all...

(Soundbite of laughter)

GONYEA: Oh, you're laughing. Go ahead.

CROIX: I don't see any change in Germany, to be honest. I see that it's a state which has got the characteristics and - and also, the journalists, they are very insulting to foreigners. It's a state and a population which has got the mentality of the Nazis of 1933.

GONYEA: And Sylvia, any comments?

POGGIOLI: Well, I have to say - on this last one, I will pass. But what I do have to say, a lot of what the caller said certainly coincides with what I heard and what I saw. There is, throughout Europe and in Germany, and in Italy in particular, a phenomenal insensitivity in the use of language in the media, I mean, really, really bad, just outrageous things that in America, we would never conceive of hearing, and - with racist remarks and so forth. And the other thing is, you know, they - once there was - an African festival was organized in a zoo and they think that that was, you know, really things we would not - you can't imagine. The other is that, yes, many tell me that the German society simply does not see the others.

There is a sense of complete exclusion. In fact, one political scientist told me that European states, Germany in particular, was founded on the concept of exclusion, and this is still felt very, very strongly today. You can't imagine; there is something like, maybe, a fifth - 20 percent of Germans, people living in Germany today, are of migrant origin, many of them of German citizenship, which - because that's a new law that was passed about nine years ago, it is possible now for foreigners to become German citizens. But they don't see them. They just are not treated. They are out on the margins completely.

(Soundbite of music)

GONYEA: That voice that you no doubt recognize is NPR's Sylvia Poggioli. She will continue with us. How do you talk about race in your country? We are taking calls from overseas. When was the last time you had a conversation about race? We want to hear from those of you listening overseas today. Tell us your story. The phone number is country code 1-202-513-2008. You can also send us email; the address is I'm Don Gonyea. It's Talk of the World from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

GONYEA: This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Don Gonyea in Washington. The issue of race plays out in very different ways around the world. Today, we want to know how you talk about race in your country, and for one day, we ask our listeners in the U.S. to put down the phone, to sit back and listen, listen to stories from our listeners overseas. When is the last time you had a conversation about race? At work? At home? Who was it with? Give us a call and we can call you back on our dime or our euro. Our phone number is country code 1-202-513-2008; that's 1-202-513-2008. You can also reach us by email; that address is; or you can call or text us via Skype, username talkoftheworld. Our guests are Sylvia Poggioli, NPR's senior European correspondent; today, she is in Perugia, Italy; and we are joined now by Pap Ndiaye. He wrote the book, "The Black Condition," and teaches in Paris, France. Professor Ndiaye, how are you?

Dr. PAP NDIAYE (North American History, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales; Author, "The Black Condition"): Very well, thank you. Hello from Paris.

GONYEA: We've been talking a bit about French society. The French have a law which forbids the collection of statistics based on race. That is rooted in altruism, an idea that all people are equal, so it shouldn't matter, but what does it mean in reality?

Dr. NDIAYE: Well, it is true that the French Republic does not officially recognize ethno-racial groups and has defined itself as colorblind and with no racial bias. The problem is that the social difficulties and the racial discriminations encountered by French blacks, French Arabs and other minority groups are not acknowledged and not even analyzed. There is the feeling among minorities that there difficulties are not treated as such and that they are really invisible men and women.

GONYEA: So, the lack of any kind of a database, does it lead to misinformation, wrong assumptions, stereotypes?

Dr. NDIAYE: Indeed, and also to the inefficiency of untied(ph) discriminatory policies. We don't have any reliable statistics onto discriminations; we don't know exactly what are the specific situation of blacks and Arabs, for example, regarding the job market, and it is very difficult to develop an effective policy of fighting discriminations. Most - many people would argue that France is somewhat shielded from discriminations and racism when minorities know that, in fact, it is not the case.

GONYEA: So, how do people in Paris, where you are, in France, talk about this subject amongst themselves?

Dr. NDIAYE: Well, there's visibly a sharp contrast between white French who do not talk much about racial issues in France. They feel very uncomfortable when talking about skin color and racial considerations. I remember that many white French were almost angry when hearing that Obama is a black man, for example; they consider that as an almost racist assumption, morally wrong and scientifically illegitimate.

GONYEA: Just the mere pointing out of that fact?

Dr. NDIAYE: Right, exactly. By contrast, minorities of color, especially blacks and Arabs, of course, talk all the time about these issues because these are questions that they have to face in their everyday life. How do you get a job; how do you rent an apartment? In Paris, it's difficult to rent an apartment when you're black because real-estate agents will find ways to tell you that, well, the apartments are no longer available and so on and so forth. So, there is clearly an obvious contrast within French society between those who do acknowledge the existence of social difficulties, their social difficulties, and those, the white majority, who tend to turn its back to the problems which minorities do face in their everyday life.

GONYEA: So, if there is conversation, is it within any given minority group? It's not between, you know, minorities and white French?

Dr. NDIAYE: Not yet, except - with the exception of white French who, for family reasons or political reasons, feel close to the needs and to the interest of minorities. But for the most part, it is true that these issues are mostly dealt with in French minorities. This is why Obama's election, which has been scrutinized by the French, has been especially followed by minorities with a sense of proud, with a sense of optimism, with a way to say, OK, Obama's election may have an impact onto French societies and politics.

GONYEA: Is it different for minorities whose families have been in France for two, three, four - many generations - as opposed for newer immigrants?

Dr. NDIAYE: Well, there are obvious differences related to legal issues. For example, obviously, being a French black professional and being a non-documented foreigner coming straight from West Africa makes a difference. And yet, what French blacks and people of North African descent have to face in their everyday life is that they often - they are always asked, where do you come from? Where do you come from? You're supposed to be a foreigner. And you have to explain that some, you know, in some cases, you, your parents or your grandparents are born or were born in metropolitan France. So, there is always the question related to your Frenchness(ph) as if, in fact, the French thought of Frenchness as being associated with a color, that is, the white color.

GONYEA: I'd like to go to a phone call now. We have Amir here, who is calling from Tehran. Amir, welcome to Talk of the Nation - Talk of the World. What's your question or comment?

AMIR (Caller): Hi, Don. Nice to be on the show.

GONYEA: Thank you. Glad you could join us.

AMIR: Well, sure. In Iran, race is not much of an issue. However, after President Obama's inauguration, this issue seems to have entered the Iranian psyche, and now people are talking about how they can infiltrate Afghans into the Iranian society, Afghans who are well-educated or those who have great manual skills, but have been, since recently, deprived of the right to get Iranian ID cards.

GONYEA: And Amir, is there a great deal of interaction between, you know, Iranians and people from Afghanistan and elsewhere on a day-to-day basis?

AMIR: Yeah, it is, because Afghans have been in Iran since Russians entered their country, and many of them lived here either legally or illegally. But nowadays, there is a talk of how they can be integrated or either they have to be returned or they have to be integrated in Iran, and it seems to be, in a way, instigated by President Obama's inauguration.

GONYEA: And how did that trigger conversation?

AMIR: Well, since recently, Afghans have been regarded as a minority which should be because of basic rights; people were talking about the opportunity to send them back to their country now that their country is at least more stable than what it used to be. But these days, people seem to have become more tolerant. They are now talking about accepting some of them, especially those who have been able to enter Iranian universities or those who have been able to get Iranian M.A. or Ph.D. degrees. So, it's seems to be changing, and that is a good sign of what is happening in the U.S. of A.

GONYEA: I mean, how - it sounds like you're describing a certain kind of soul-searching. How widespread is it, really?

AMIR: Oh, it is not really widespread, because as I said earlier, race is not a big issue here, the Caucasian race just dominating the whole society. It is more or less the issue of ethnicity rather than race.

GONYEA: All right, Amir. Thank you for checking in from Teheran.

AMIR: It's a pleasure. Take care.

GONYEA: Professor Ndiaye, any thoughts on that? I mean, that's Iran. Is there a soul-searching that's going on elsewhere that you've been able to measure?

Dr. NDIAYE: Yes. There is some soul-searching when looking at French politics, which is still a bastion of white males. For the most part, French politics looks like American politics in the early '60s in many ways. So, the hope is that in France Obama's election will have an impact onto French politics, that the doors of politics will open to minorities, but also to women and to various groups who have been highly marginal in the public sphere. The difference, of course, between France and such countries as Iran is that France has a history which is a history of colonization. France has had a long history with various parts of Asia in Africa so that there has been a color line within the French empire, and racial issues have been - also dealt with in obvious ways with colonial subjects, with slavery. In many ways, the history of France has similarities with this history of other colonial power such as England, of course, and also with the history of United States.

GONYEA: We're going to bring another guest in here. Karen Chouhan is in London. She is a director of Equanomics. We'll ask her to tell us what that is in just a moment. Karen, are you there?

Ms. KAREN CHOUHAN (Director, Equanomics UK): Yeah. Good evening from London. It's after seven.

GONYEA: Thank you for joining us.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CHOUHAN: Yeah, OK.

GONYEA: Are there - what is that? What is Equanomics?

Ms. CHOUHAN: Well, it's an approach to race equality through economic justice. So, it's bringing equality and economic justice together, Equanomics. So, we believe, for example, in the organization that you can't have any social integration without economic integration; you can't have social mobility without economic mobility. So, it's, you know, on the good principles of a lot of black leaders like Dr. King, Mahatma Gandhi, who believed in economic independence and economic empowerment. That's what we work on.

GONYEA: London is a very diverse place, anybody who's wandered the streets...

Ms. CHOUHAN: Yeah.

GONYEA: Streets of that city. Does that mean there is a lively conversation going on about race?

Ms. CHOUHAN: Oh, yeah. Yeah, it's buzzing. I mean, London is buzzing, we've got - it's 38 percent of population in London is a black or minority person and 50 percent of the total population of people of color live in London. So, you hear the conversations all the time. And there's so many things happening at the moment and lots of things going on. Well, we've got a new proposition for what we're calling a - what the government are calling are singly qualities bill, where they're bringing all the equality strands together on the one piece of legislation. We're not quite sure how that's going to work out for race, because there's a lot of work to do on that. There's been some new developments around immigration and policing. So, they're all huge debates, as well as the antiterrorism debates. But of course, everyone is talking about Obama, and that is just been a huge boost for black and minority communities here.

GONYEA: Yeah. We're talking about London, but if you get outside of London...

Ms. CHOUHAN: Yeah.

GONYEA: If you get away from the major population centers, my guess it's a different picture and it's a different kind of discussion going on.

Ms. CHOUHAN: Well, you know, there are some things which are pretty thematic, and you will hear them in any city you go to. I'm one - any of the big cities anyway, because most of the big cities have got very sizable black or minority populations. Where I actually live in Lester, I mean, we're reaching 50 percent - 50 percent of the population's going to be a popular of color by 2010. So, there are some big pockets outside London. When I say 50 percent of the black population live in London, that's still a huge number that don't. So, it's about three million that don't. So - and there a lots of not - people outside that. But the themes are pretty similar across the country.

There's a huge debate at the moment around institutional racism and also around cohesion, integration, diversity, what they actually mean. The people are very, kind of, fed up with the terminology that's being used for race equality by the government and the media. So, people feel, for example, that cohesion is an industry that's being created by white civil servants who didn't particularly like the antiracism agenda. And so, there's a - it doesn't - what is it mean? What does cohesion policies mean? What does integration mean? We would rather the focus beyond structural and systemic disadvantage in employment, in housing, in communal justice, et cetera. That's the debate across the nation at the moment and of course, Obama.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GONYEA: You're listening to Talk of the world from NPR News. Let's go to a caller now. We have Steve calling from Liverpool. Steve, what's your comment?

STEVE (Caller): Yeah, good evening. I was interested in hearing your previous commentator there saying about how the conversation has gone in major population centers. I'm actually calling from Liverpool, England. I find that the conversation has tended to change somewhat over my lifetime. When I was growing up, it was very much out in the open, very confrontational. I find that in polite conversation, at least, now, obviously, racism (unintelligible) is nothing like has tolerated. And yet at the same time, we have the rise of groups like the British National Party, who've been very successful in promoting their agenda through some of the local council organizations. So, it seems like some of that conversation has almost been driven underground.

GONYEA: How often do you have a conversation about race with, you know, with someone?

STEVE: I would say, it's quite regular, certainly within my family and friends. I think that your guest was quite right in highlighting the election of Obama as being the key. We're very supportive of that and thought it was a wonderful development. That generated some conversations - I do find troubling some of the sort of casual racism that I encounter sometimes. And in my circle of friends, those generate some additional conversation.

GONYEA: Just casual, just, you know, things that people have always said and don't think anything of it, that sort of thing?

STEVE: Exactly.

GONYEA: And what - you said when you were younger, it was more overt. What kind of time period are we talking? Is this over 20 years?

STEVE: I'm, I mean, I'm 44. So, really, I'm thinking over about in the '70s and '80s. I'm thinking about very open displays. I look at things like the sports arena. I'm a football fan, soccer. Go to a soccer ground in the '70s and '80s, and it was very routine for black players to be openly barracked. People would make monkey noises or even, you know, there was a player who played for the team in Liverpool who, when he started playing there, was - just had bananas thrown at him in the field. And that sort, it was very open, very hostile racism.

GONYEA: Steve, thank you for checking in from Liverpool today.

STEVE: Thank you.

GONYEA: We will continue this conversation in a moment. How do you talk about race in your country? We are taking calls from overseas and from overseas only today. If you are listening from somewhere outside the U.S., please give us a call. The country code is 1, then 202-513-2008; email You can stay with us, if you'd like to continue or join this conversation. I'm Don Gonyea. It's Talk of the World from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

GONYEA: This is Talk of the World. I'm Don Gonyea in Washington. The United States has its own ongoing conversation about race. President Obama's election spurred a number of those discussions. Today, we want to talk with listeners in other countries. How do you talk about race where do you live? Again, we ask our listeners in the U.S. to just sit back and listen to this broadcast. Stay away from the phone and listen to stories from listeners around the world. When is the last time you had a conversation about race? At work? At home? Who was it with? Give us a call. We'll call you back on our dime. We'll call you back on our euro. Our phone number is - or whatever currency happens to be your local currency. The phone number is country code 1-202-513-2008. You can also reach us by email; the address is

We are joined by three guests. They are, a familiar voice to all of you, NPR senior European correspondent Sylvia Poggioli; she joins us from Perugia, Italy; Pap Ndiaye, he wrote the book "The Black Condition;" he is in Paris, France; also, Karen Chouhan is the director of Equanomics UK, an organization that works with minority in marginalized communities in the United Kingdom. Sylvia, you are based in Rome. What - how would you describe the conversation that takes place in Italy? We haven't mentioned Italy yet, really.

POGGIOLI: Well, I have to say that of all the countries now that I've been traveling in, and I've been living in Italy for a long time, I think the situation is absolutely the worst here. You ask, what's the conversation on race? There is no conversation on race. What there is, is the application, the visible sign, of an increasing racism. It's incredible of what's happening. In northern Italy, there's a very strong party - it's in the national government - called the Northern League. Many, many towns of the north are run by the Northern League. And they have done terrible - they've removed benches from parks because they don't want foreigners, immigrants, sleeping on them. There's - one of the leaders of the party refers to Africans and calls them Bingo Bongos. Amnesty International has accused the Italian government of fomenting racism and xenophobia in its use of words.

Now, the government is about to pass a big security bill that envisions authorized squads of unarmed civilian volunteers to patrol neighborhoods to protect against what is perceived as increasing crime by foreigners, although the statistics do not uphold this. You talk about race. In Italy, the targets of the greatest hatred are the Roma, the Gypsies, where - unique, I think, in any country in Europe, they are officially considered nomads, and therefore, they are virtually forced to live in shantytown camps rather that in real houses. And the other group of people who are now the targets of tremendous hatred are the Romanians because there been several high-profile cases of some rapes committed by Romanians. And so, now it's common to hear television news - they say, somewhere there was a rape today, and of course, the suspects are Romanians. This is the kind of language you hear. And of course, this increases - foments, obviously, this terrible the xenophobia among people.

GONYEA: It sounds like it's not, kind of, guarded at all, no kind of words to kind of cushion it a little bit. It's just - it's right out there?

POGGIOLI: Absolutely, absolutely, and then, you know, to give you an idea also, you know, because the question here - to explain again why Europe and - how America and Europe are so different, I mean, you know, America, we've all said this many times, was built by immigrants while modern European states were really founded on ethnic identity. Therefore, there is really an aversion in many of these societies to what's called - not only, you know, the multicultural society, to what they call a hybrid society. One of these Northern League mayors in the medieval walled town which is appropriately called Cittadella or the Citadel, he told me, you Americans are used to diversity, but we want to defend our culture and traditions, and I think that is really the dividing line.

GONYEA: Nobody's talking about a melting pot there.

POGGIOLI: Absolutely not.

GONYEA: Let's go to a phone call. We have Sandra on the line. Sandra, where are you calling from?

SANDRA (Caller): I'm calling from the Cayman Islands.

GONYEA: Thank you for joining us and for listening today. What can we do for you?

SANDRA: Well, I find your show very interesting, as I often do. By the way, I love National Public Radio. I'm so happy that you're online. But this is a very, very interesting discussion from our perspective even here in the Caribbean in general, but in particular in the Cayman Islands, and I think for us, it's not so much of a race issue because we have a lot of Caribbean people. The majority of our population is actually of some sort of mixed race, you know, with African and American and, you know, maybe some other Caribbean nations and so on. But I think what we have that's quite interesting is really a clash of cultures more so than the races. So, it's more of a cultural issue, in terms of cultures embarking on what we see as our traditional Caymanian culture, and when that happens that causes a bit of friction. So, there is some dialogue that does occur amongst individuals, but I don't think that there is enough dialogue. So, it's very, very, I think, good that you're having this dialogue on your program so that people can listen in.

GONYEA: When dialogue occurs there, you say there's not enough, but where does it happen? I mean, is it forced? Does it happen casually?

SANDRA: Yeah. It seems to happen a lot on our local talk programs; we do have a couple of talk shows and the dialogue does happen there. Sometimes it happens on online forums as well. And then people just amongst themselves may have that conversation occasionally. But I think that it definitely needs to happen more. And it doesn't happen, really, so much at an official level. So, the government doesn't really play into it at all. And I think that if they were to encourage more open dialogue in terms of different types of cultures, then, you know, maybe that would assist the process as well of having a bit more tolerance.

GONYEA: Karen Chouhan, I wonder if we can get you to weigh in on this, the notion that it's also cultural.

Ms. CHOUHAN: Well, you know, I think that there is an element, of course, of cultural things coming in to the conversation. But I think there's a big imbalance in the way that we talk about things like that because, for example, a lot of people in the UK will say - or not - actually not a lot of people, but some senior politicians and some civil servants might say that, well, the reason that Bangladesh women don't work or aren't in employment is because they don't want to work or they're not allowed to work. Well some research carried out by the Equal Opportunities Commission showed the opposite, that actually Bangladesh women did want to work and they were unemployed, registered unemployed, three - in three times greater numbers than white women. Now, if you're registered unemployed that means you've signed up for work. So, it isn't the only factor. I think sometimes it's just a misnomer, but we do have to look to responsibility in our communities as well. So, we can't just fight it off, but I think that it is - that's far too much for the imbalance.

GONYEA: We have another caller closer to home, Ottawa, Canada. Carla is on the line. Hi, Carla.

CARLA (Caller): Hi.

GONYEA: Your comments?

CARLA: I think that Americans, your American audience, would be very interested and surprised to know the amount of xenophobia or racism or nationalistic hatred that exists in Canada, yeah. Americans tend to see - in fact, much of the world tends to see - Canadians and our nation and our policies as almost perfect. But Canada has three, actually four, basic targets of this kind of hatred, and it is, number one, I suppose, the Canadian Indians; you call them American Indians in your lower part of North America; here it's the Canadian Indians; the Chinese, which we have a large population of Chinese in the west; the French, of course, you're all familiar with the situation with Quebec; and unfortunately, an enormous amount of Anti-Americanism, an enormous amount of Anti-Americanism. And this kind of talk is constant in Canada. It is on the airwaves. I don't think that you can listen to radio in Canada without hearing some sly or undercurrent of this kind of hatred toward one of these four groups: Americans, the French, the Chinese or the Canadian Indians. And I think this is a surprise, because it's not seen as such by the rest of the world.

GONYEA: It's interesting; when we pull together a program like this, we're thinking about conversations that people may have, kind of, wrestling with the issue and wondering how they can find common ground and all that, but you're describing a very different kind of conversation as taking place up there.

CARLA: Well, the conversation is - has escalated since the - your election down there of President Obama. One of the comments that you hear in one form or another is, God, I can't even imagine if a - you fill in the blank - Canadian Indian, Chinese, French, whatever - elected as a prime minister of Canada. The election of a black in America is the equivalent of the election of a Canadian Indian or a Chinese in Canada. And that conversation has, I think, escalated everywhere, both in private as well as in the media.

GONYEA: Is there a separate conversation that's taking place, though, that is pleased with what the U.S. has done and maybe surprises people in a positive way?

CARLA: I think certainly you find those that do see it is as a good thing that America has done, but there are so few things that Canadians want to credit America for that it's hard to find...

(Soundbite of laughter)

GONYEA: We did see huge, huge crowds on the canal and on the streets outside of the parliament and the government buildings in Ottawa last week for President Obama.

CARLA: Yes, yes, but remember he's a celebrity, so there'd be huge crowds if Michael Jackson came here also.

GONYEA: All right. Carla, thank you for your call.


GONYEA: I want to go to Pap Ndiaye. We were talking earlier about France not keeping any statistics on race and ethnicity, that that is born out of a sense that all people are equal. Of course, the reality is they aren't, and one's race, one's color, one's background, can determine a whole a lot about how well you fit into society. But they now have this - I'm going to get the title wrong - but kind of a minister of diversity. What is this - what is the title, and what is this person really supposed to do?

Dr. NDIAYE: Yes, Mr. Yazid Sabeg has recently been appointed as under minister in charge of diversity. So, obviously, there is something - it is fairly unclear. His program is still fuzzy, but it is very possible that - and he has written about that - Mr. Sabeg will favor and encourage the development of programs of affirmative action so that the most selective universities - les grandes ecoles, as we call them in France - will open their doors and not be as conservative as they have been. There is also much talks about how to reform French political life, which is, by all means, so conservative when French society may be more opened than French politicians.

Well, there are many, many issues on his desk, and people are quite curious to see what he will do beyond what I would call - concerning Mr. Sarkozy's policy, Sylvia referred to the appointment of a few ministers including Rama Yade, but this policy has often been considered as a form of tokenism. If you'll appoint only a few visible minorities in high positions in the French government, it is obviously not enough. We have to deal with stronger issues, with the issues deeply rooted into the fabric of French society, and these issues have to be dealt in a political way, with strong reforms regarding politics, but also the higher education system. So, we'll see what Mr. Sabeg will do, but I do hope that he will be a little bit more energetic and that Obama's election will encourage him to be a little bit more daring and stronger on these issues than the Sarkozy government has done so far yet.

GONYEA: You're listening to Talk of the World from NPR News. Let's stay in Paris for a moment. We have a call. Kit, I understand you teach English as a second language.

KIT (Caller): Yes. Hi. I'm calling from Paris, France. I teach ESL to adults and I would love to kiss the guest you have from Paris. I didn't catch his name.

(Soundbite of laughter)


KIT: But I just wanted to corroborate everything that he said between the difference - the differences between the white French and the, well, the Algerian and the African French. And when I'm teaching English to them, and I'm teaching the adjectives and the nouns - you know, the nationalities versus the countries where they're from - and if an Algerian says, I'm French, the French person in a group will say, well, no, you're not, you know? And the Algerian might be a third-generation French person but - and he says, but I was born in France; I have French nationality. And the French person will say, well, but you know - and it's like a "Who's on First?" kind of thing. It's comical on one hand, and it's saddening on the other hand.

GONYEA: And the person who responds, the French person who responds, and says, you're not French, I mean, is it purely - I mean, is it color? Is that it? Or is it...

KIT: It's color, and it's class, too, you know? I live in a working-class neighborhood in Menilmontant in Paris. And you know, you feel the class differences, too, the sort of elitist versus the second-class citizens, you know, the Algerians who are cleaning Stade de France at three in the morning and then the, you know, people who are going to see Johnny Holiday play in Stade de France and - yeah, there's class, and there's the skin, and there's just this thing, as your guest said, about the history of the colonization that France has.

GONYEA: I'm wondering - we don't have a lot of time here - are these - they sound like they're perhaps lively conversations. Are they frustrating? Are they tense? What are they?

KIT: Sorry. Say it again.

GONYEA: Are these conversations with - amongst your students, are they lively? Are they frustrating? Are they tense?

(Soundbite of laughter)

KIT: They're all of the above, you know? Sometimes they're comical. And as a teacher, I'm trying to lead this group and just do my job teaching English, and you become a sociologist and a psychiatrist and a mediator. So, yeah, they're lively, but there is some tension, you know? And it depends on if the Algerian is very sensitive about the subject, they might storm out of the class, you know, or if the white person is kind of cool about it, then they'll say, well, I'm sorry, you know, my bad. But...

GONYEA: Well, listen, thank you for calling today. I want to thank our guests, all of them, for joining us: Sylvia Poggioli, NPR's European correspondent talking to us in Perugia, Italy; Karen Chouhan is with Equanomics UK, London; she is the director of that organization; And Pap Ndiaye from Paris. Thank you all for joining us on this hour that is way too short. We can go on and on and on and on, on this topic. And we'd also like to thank everyone who called and emailed their stories to us. We heard from far too many of you to get everyone on the air, but thank you for participation. I also want to thank our international partners for their help with today's broadcast: RTE Choice in Ireland, YLE Mondo in Finland and World Radio Switzerland. Thanks also to all of our member stations here in the United States, and thanks to all of you for listening. This is Talk of the Nation from NPR News. I'm Don Gonyea.

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