PARIS—Organizations representing France's Black community have formed a national federation in hopes of boosting the profile of Black people amid growing public debate over discrimination.
The creation of the Representative Council of Black Organizations, or CRAN, follows weeks of rioting in poor suburbs. It means that Blacks from origins as diverse as the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa will be represented by a single body for the first time.
"Its aim is to be the link between Black populations that are often desperate or exasperated and public authorities who are often forgetful or scornful," Louis-Georges Tin, the group's spokesperson, said in a telephone interview Monday.
Seventy-two groups launched the federation, known in France as CRAN, at a meeting in parliament on Saturday.
Tin said there were at least 5 million Blacks in France, but the country's ban on collecting data based on ethnic origin had contributed to making the community invisible. The policies that bar racial data have failed in the initial goal of protecting against racism, he added.
"Anti-racist policies say there is no race," Tin said. "Therefore there are no Blacks, so there is no Black problem, and if you talk about the problems of Blacks, it means you yourself are racist."
Plans to launch the federation date to February, well before the riots were triggered by the deaths on Oct. 27 of two teenagers as they hid from police in the northeast Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois.
It will be headed by Patrick Lozes, head of the Circle of Action for the Promotion of Diversity in France, or Capdiv, which is in favor of "ethnic statistics" to help overcome racial discrimination. This would require people to declare their ethnic origin voluntarily.
President Jacques Chirac has pledged to combat racial discrimination and high unemployment in depressed suburbs but has rejected the use of job and educational quotas based on race.
Job discrimination was a key complaint voiced by many youth who torched cars and public buildings in heavily immigrant suburbs.
Tin said the federation had yet to work out a consensus position on affirmative action, but that he was personally in favor.
"You can criticize affirmative action," he said. "But on the other hand, all those who criticize it and refuse it should be required to suggest something better."
— The Associated Press