Affirmative action was born in the United States. It was originally designed to favour Black people, whose ancestors where slaves. Then, such programs extended to other underprivileged categories of the population: the disabled, the women, the Latinos. The first to use the phrase "Affirmative action" was President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in 1961. The core idea was that despite civil rights laws, increasing equality required to promote Black people to upper social categories, for instance through an easier access to university. At that period were also created some jobs reserved to ethnic minorities. Nevertheless, quotas were never used to enforce this policy. The Supreme Court even stated in 2003, that quotas are against the constitution. Indeed, the federal government had to plan pro-minorities laws, without ever using the quotas. The results that came out of this policy in the United States seem to be cheering. Indeed, in 1960, only 13 % of the Black people in the United States belonged to the middle-class. Today, this figure amounts 66 %.
[...] The second obstacle to affirmative action policies aimed at ethnical minorities and women is the very idea of discrimination, which involves questioning the French meaning of equality. Accepting to discriminate reversely a category of the population requires acknowledging this category has been discriminated before. Actually, the French republican framework does not acknowledge such differences based upon one's nature. The French motto: “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite” emphasis its faith into equality among citizens. Therefore, the idea of privileging some people because of their origin or gender is at odds with the fact that these categories are not viewed as modifying our statute of citizen. [...]
[...] Moreover, the French equalitarian dogma, strengthened throughout the republican generations, prevents France from implementing a formal distinction among its citizens. As a consequence, we can say there is a specific French affirmative action if we consider this phrase as “policies to promote underprivileged people”. But we cannot say there is a French affirmative action if we think about this phrase as discriminations to compensate racial prejudices. Anyway, these two policies share most of their goals. The first one is to make underprivileged people more visible and therefore to turn them into patterns for the Young. The second goal [...]
[...] The topic there a French affirmative action policy?” requires to question French “discrimination positive” policies in order to determine whether we can call them affirmative action or not. Can we say there is a French policy of Affirmative action? Are these policies shaped on the same principles? What are the political obstacles to set up a policy built up on the United States' model? Which path follows the French policy of promoting underprivileged people? In a first part, we will focus on the stakes of French policies aimed at promoting underprivileged people. [...]
[...] The French reluctance about individual affirmative action can be explained by focusing on the criteria used to favour such underprivileged categories in the existing programs. Actually, theses criteria are the only ones widely accepted as relevant reasons for affirmative action. We can notice the absence of affirmative action programs aimed at ethnical minorities. Therefore, focussing on the reasons that are claimed to justify the lack of such policies provide interesting pieces of information about two French specificities: the refusal to take into account the origins of someone as a handicap and the reluctance to discriminate people on an individual base. [...]
[...] The last category of French affirmative action seems to be a French specificity: parité”. This policy was settled by a law passed June, 6th 2000 by the left hand government led by Lionel Jospin. The spirit of this law is quite radical since no country in the world ever compelled political parties to present as many women as men for elections. Indeed, when the election is carried out in one ballot only, political parties have to present one person of each sex out of two candidates on the list. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee