Today we stopped by Sciences Po (where we discovered we can use the Internet for free!) to complete our applications for our “cartes d’ètudiantes,” and with an action as simple as registering for school, I am now completely protected by the government of France – I have a social security number specific to France and everything.
As difficult as it can be to get anything done in this country – we still don’t have our cartes de séjour, despite trekking to the 15éme (4 metro transfers from where we began!) to apply at the centre d’étudiant and find out that we can’t apply until Sept. 12th – every person legitimately in the country is automatically protected by social security. The group that is falling through the cracks is young African immigrants. Hundreds (maybe thousands) of students and workers from North and French-speaking Africa are being threatened with deportation because the government (Sarkozy) has decided it no longer wants them, and will no longer issue student visas or work permits. For all my good feelings toward the government upon issue of my French social security number, it’s worth remembering that I am a 20 year old caucasian girl from the United States – of course the government is going to be kind to a white student from what could be considered the world’s only near-hegemonic power.
Racial tensions are high all over Paris, as R and I continue to witness. In addition to the man who tried to instruct the protesters of last Saturday to return to Algeria, there was a huge fight in McDonald’s between a customer and a Sénègalese employee. Well, less of a fight than a youngish guy who was really upset about something involving ketchup, and in addition to berating the employee about that was trying to tell him to “stay in Sénègal.” R and I were a little nervous to be there – it looked like something that could have escalated violently. Luckily another employee took the object of the anger into a back room to hide him, and someone else was able to convince the customer to leave the restaurant.
Every aspect of French culture today is still dictated by post-Revolutionary ideals. The country is ripe for an upheaval.
Change is coming.