In the fall of 2005 the streets of France were rocked by civil disturbances on a scale unseen for decades. Only months earlier Azouz Begag, France’s first minister for equal opportunities and first-ever cabinet minister of North African immigrant origin, wrote an essay laying bare the festering social and ethnic injustices that, as can now be seen in hindsight, led to the riots. This essay, published here for the first time, brilliantly documents the socioeconomic inequalities, ethnic discrimination, and political neglect that have bred a volatile generation of minority ethnic youths deeply distrustful of a society they believe has failed them.
Blending autobiography with sociological and political analysis, Begag shows how social peace in France depends on transforming these disaffected youths into galvanized citizens. His insights into the malaise of France’s urban ghettos offer lessons for developed countries throughout the world—and hope for the similar challenges they face.