Mickey Mouse Racism

On Nov. 4, SOS Racisme, the French anti-racist NGO founded in 1984, published its report on companies that keep files on their employees’ ethnic identity and referred the case of Eurodisney to the courts. The entertainment industry giant requires that 80% of its temporary workers look “European.”

A “bombshell.” That is the word used by Patrick Karam, the inter-ministerial delegate for equal opportunity for French citizens from the overseas départements and territories, to describe the report submitted to him by the Fédération nationale des Maisons des potes and SOS Racisme. The subject is an explosive one: the practice of keeping files on the ethnic identity of people seeking housing or a job.

A law of which the police and the judges are ignorant.

It was while working on the case of Adecco Restauration, which was accused of classing its temporary workers by category, one of which was for persons from Africa, the French overseas départements and territories, and Haiti, that SOS Racisme began looking into one of Adecco’s customers, Eurodisney. As a result, at 9 a.m. yesterday SOS Racisme had bailiffs sent to Eurodisney’s offices. Indeed, the entertainment industry giant is described as a “main contracting party for racial discrimination,” since it was continually complaining that too many of Adecco’s temporary workers were colored or of North African origin. Whereas 80% of Adecco Restauration’s workers were “non-BWR” (that is, not “blue-white-red,” the colors of the French flag, a code term for “white”), for its part, Eurodisney set a maximum “quota” of 20% “non-BWR.” SOS Racisme then discovered a system of ethnic and racial file-keeping on job applicants on the Disney group’s Internet site. Applicants were required to choose their “country” from a list including France, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Réunion, French Polynesia, French Guyana and New Caledonia. The inhabitants of all these “countries” are French citizens.

When it looked at the 2007 Eurodisney balance sheet, SOS Racisme also discovered that employees were classed according to categories depending on their “nationality”: “Africa excluding North Africa, North Africa, other Caribbean, Europe (Western), including French…” As Samuel Thomas, president of the Fédération nationale des Maisons des potes and vice president of SOS Racisme pointed out, “this stigmatization of applicants from the French overseas départements and territories necessarily implies that there is a difference in the processing of applications made by these job applicants, who are all, nevertheless, French citizens.”

Eurodisney makes no attempt to conceal the fact that it has such a hiring policy and takes shelter behind a reference to its type of customer. Since most of its customers are Europeans, the company argues, its workers must also be mostly Europeans, even if they are not in direct contact with the customers. In the face of such blatant discrimination, SOS Racisme requested a court order from the president of the Meaux criminal court, obtained on October 28 and enforceable yesterday, to have a bailiff seize Eurodisney’s files on job applicants and on employees.

“No political will”

This procedure has proved to be essential in securing evidence of ethnic and racial file-keeping, which since 1978 has been punishable by five years’ imprisonment and a 300,000-euro-fine for individuals and a 1.5-million-euro fine for companies. This law is mainly honored in the breach, and for good reason: neither the police nor the judges know the law, to the point that the police have even refused to register complains and prosecutors and examining magistrates must be coaxed to take action. Similarly, the training on the subject that was to be offered at Magistrates School never saw the light of day. However SOS Racisme criticizes the laxism of the French national commission on information technology and freedom, which ought to have investigated the collection of data on an individual’s race and ethnicity, an activity which is theoretically forbidden. In reality, it has been SOS Racisme which has done the investigatory work to develop cases and collect evidence, has undertaken statistical analyses, has identified the employees who need to be heard by the examining magistrate and which has sought out the victims of these practices… Tomorrow, Patrick Karam will transmit the report to the inter-ministerial council on the French overseas départements and territories, which Nicolas Sarkozy will preside over. “The legal arsenal is both complete and adequate, what is lacking is the will,” Mr. Karam added.

Translated by Gene Zbikowski.