February 2016

Ah France. The land of love and carbs. Two things I hold dear to my heart. However when I moved to France in the Winter of 2014 I learned that this was a country that had a lot more complexities and identities than romance and fine foods. 

I lived in Lille, an urban town in Northern France. Here are some stats about Lille:

  • 28% of people have No High School Education
  • Lille was a hotspot for textile, coal and mining industries. During the 1960’s and 1970’s this industry began to decline and the city became more of a service sector.
  • Unemployment in Lille is at around 15%
  • Despite this- Lille is one of the most popular student towns. There are over 100,000 students in the city.

I went to school at Sciences Po. This is one of Europe’s top political science schools- even though its campus in Lille would fool you.

Science Po Lille is located in Moulins. The school being in this district was a political move. The municipality of Lille wanted to enhance social diversity in the neighbourhood. This district of Lille is home to many migrant workers, welfare offices, and has higher crime rates than most of the other districts. You can see why building a fancy university there was considered questionable.

Going to school in Moulins I saw a different side of France than the bright lights of Paris. Moulins has an unemployment rate of almost 30%.

It also was a place I was repeatedly told to not walk around alone in. After a few weeks there I understood why. Not a day passed where I didn’t feel uncomfortable in some sort. It was common for men to leer and yell at you from across the street, or for a fight to be happening in the corners. Often the metro was filled with people doing drugs, or publicly urinating.

Currently France is in the middle of the Migrant Crisis that is stemming from the conflicts in the Middle East; primarily ISIS. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has said the migration crisis is putting France in danger. He believes that Europe needs to control its external borders. “Otherwise,” he said, “our societies will be totally destabilised”.

Today France announced that along with Beligum they will tighten their border controls. And that thousands of people in a tent camp in Calais will be evicted.

Now this come across as harsh. I get that. France can be an extremely racist country.

But having lived and studied in France things make a little more sense to me than they did before. And that is due to France’s history with migrants.

Specifically their history with Algerian migrants.

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The 20th century saw a large movement of people across the world. Migration turned from temporary to permanent and immigrants began representing a large number of country’s population. One of the largest groups to immigrate into France was the Algerians. The Algerian community in France continued to grow over the 20th century and they currently make up a large portion of the French population. Unlike many other ethnic groups there has been a problem of Algerian citizens integrating into French society. France’s colonial history and the circumstances of Algerian immigrant life have led to a massive divide between French nationals and Algerians, leading to the latter being looked at as alien within the country. The integration problem of Algerians in France is not only a cultural issue but also class issue. While Algerians are able to obtain citizenship they will not be fully integrated into society until the issues of racism and class issues are better dealt with.

In the 19th century there were many discriminatory laws that kept Algerian citizens from immigrating to France. The large part of the history of Algerians in France dates all the way back to 1912, when between 4000-5000 predominately Berber speaking Arabs immigrated to France from Algeria.[1] This number continued to rise over the course of the 20th century. “The migration of colonized Arab-Berbers from Algeria to mainland France was the earliest and the most extensive of all colonial migrations to Western Europe before the 1960s.”[2] Algeria was France’s largest settler colony. Before Algeria’s independence in 1962 Algerians were not technically moving from one country to another when entering France since technically they were under French rule in both areas. An important note is that Algerians that entered France prior to 1962 were not considered French citizens but French subjects; they were still under colonial rule. During WW1 the number of Algerian immigrants increased, as there were a number of jobs that needed to be filled due to the large number of French troops overseas.[3] AKA most of the immigrants at this time were males who were coming to France to work in factories.


World War two changed the landscape of France drastically. New reforms were introduced that affected not just French citizens but the hundreds of thousands of Algerian immigrants in France as well.  in 1947 a reform happened that allowed Algerian men full French citizenship.

With these new reforms tens of thousands of Algerians emigrated hoping for a better life living as French citizens. However this was not the case as Algerians were still treated as second-class citizens and their living and working conditions were still deplorable. In the late 1950s Algerian nationals fought back and formed militant groups to fight against the French state. The French quickly responded and fought back. “In response to the nationalists, huge police identity-check operations – that had started in the early 1950s – rounded up literally thousands of people on the street whom officers judged to be of ‘Algerian’ appearance.”[6] The situation for Algerian immigrants was bleak yet Algerians still saw living and working in France as a way to support their families back home in Algeria. The idea of immigration at this point was temporary; remittances were the sole focus, not building a life.

Integration of the Algerian community in France has been a problem since the beginning. Beginning in the early 20th century Algerians were often given the dirty and dangerous jobs that the French nationals did not want. Immigrants seem to already belong to a lower social class and working the jobs that French nationals themselves only furthered this problem. It has proved very hard for Algerians to rise up within the social class system. These jobs were not only looked down upon but they also did not pay well. As such the Algerian community was ostracized and had no hope of living anywhere but in the poorer areas of town. Algerians could not raise their social status without better paying jobs, and they were not able to obtain better paying jobs without a higher social status. The cycle of exclusion had begun.

Where the Algerian migrants were settling played a large part in their problems of integration. Due to the large number of Algerian immigrants in the mid 20th century there was a housing shortage in France that led to the majority of Algerian immigrants living in shantytowns on the outskirts of towns. These areas were exclusively immigrant residences and fueled the stereotype of Algerians as outsiders. Government housing was built to replace these shantytowns but these areas were still almost exclusively immigrant residences and almost exclusively Algerian, which furthered their seclusion. These ghetto-like areas were often very dangerous and had high levels of unemployment, disease, and drug problems, all of which only increased the belief that Algerians were trouble.[9]

All of these problems stem from the inherent way that Algerians are viewed. They are not viewed as equals and racism plagues the French nation. There is a deep-rooted racism in France towards Algerians and Arabs in general which stems all the way back to colonial rule. In the 19th century when Algeria was first under France’s colonial rule the French treated their Algerian subjects as second-class citizens who had very few rights and were seen as completely unequal and lesser. These beliefs were backed by an ideology that believed Algerians were uncivilized and racially inferior and therefore it was the right of the French to colonize them and there was no problem in discriminating against them.[10] The white man’s burden was very much evident in the case of France’s colonial rule over Algeria. This attitude followed the Algerians to France when the waves of immigration began. French nationals viewed Algerians and Arabs as dirty, poor, and as a threat to the strong Republic. Most notably were the stereotypes that Algerians were violent and dangerous. ‘In 1923 a mentally ill Algerian man attacked and killed two Parisians setting off large-scale riots in the city. The press latched onto this situation and painted all Algerians and Arabs as violent criminals who were now threatening the safety of the people of France.’[11] This negative attitude and belief system continued to be perpetuated by the press. In 1947 La Monde released an article in which it stated, “The Algerians are a national problem.”[12]

Integration has also historically been a problem because of resistance from the Algerian community. During the 20th century and the many years of repressive living enforced by the stereotypes that the French society had pinned on them the Algerian communities began to fight back. Many Algerians aligned themselves with the party Front de Nationale who was a large supporter of Algerian independence. Under this façade FLN acquired quite a large Algerian backing, however FLN was extremely anti-integration and worked very hard to isolate the Algerians from French life. “FLN encouraged the Algerian community in France to take an anti-French stance, which virtually halted the integration process.”[13] There was a clear line in the sand between the French and Algerians and there was an overall feeling that Algerians living in France were not at all French citizens but actually intruders in a country, in which they did not belong.

The largest problem seems to be integrating Algerians into the labour market into France. Although school is mandatory and shared between both French nationals and Algerian immigrants, transitioning into the labour market after school has not proved to be equal for the two groups. Studies have shown that second generation Algerians have made a more concerted effort at integrating themselves into French society than one would have predicted.[14] There is a large willingness of Algerians to marry outside of their own ethnic group, which is very important as it leads to mixed families and a broader sense of integration. “Research targeting Algerians married to local French partners shows that the more highly educated and successful Algerians have greater chances of marrying outside their own group.”[15] This supports the claim that Algerians are not just seen as outsiders because of their race but are seen as outsiders due to their social class. The circumstances of living in France as an Algerian immigrant have led to the majority of Algerians living in France to belong to a low level social class. This social class is what is now holding them back from total integration.

Second- generation Algerians are trying to assimilate themselves more into the French society and if this continues hopefully the third generation Algerians will as well. Integration into society has been especially difficult for Algerians due to the deep-rooted colonial history with France, which as caused attitudes of racism and ‘otherness’, as well as the problems of integrating Algerians into the French labour market. “French-Algerian communities still live on impoverished housing estates, go to bad schools, and have few opportunities for social advancement. At best they get menial jobs, at worst they end up unemployed or in prison.[16] This reality perpetuates the image that many French nationals have of French-Algerians; that they are poor, dirty and criminals. This image continues to make it very difficult for French-Algerians to break out of their cycle of life.

[1] Leo Lucassen, The Immigrant Threat: Studies of World Migrants, (Chicago: University of Illinois Press: 2005) ,p.16
[2] Jim House, “The colonial and post-colonial dimensions of Algerian migration to France”, History in Focus; Issue 11: Migration, 2006, http://www.history.ac.uk, (accessed: April 7th, 2014).
[3]Leo Lucassen, The Immigrant Threat: Studies of World Migrants, (Chicago: University of Illinois Press: 2005) ,, p.16
[4] Jim House, “The colonial and post-colonial dimensions of Algerian migration to France”, History in Focus; Issue 11: Migration, 2006, http://www.history.ac.uk, (accessed: April 7th, 2014).
[5] Jim House, “The colonial and post-colonial dimensions of Algerian migration to France”, History in Focus; Issue 11: Migration, 2006, http://www.history.ac.uk, (accessed: April 7th, 2014).
[6] Jim House, “The colonial and post-colonial dimensions of Algerian migration to France”, History in Focus; Issue 11: Migration, 2006, http://www.history.ac.uk, (accessed: April 7th, 2014).
[7] Jim House, “The colonial and post-colonial dimensions of Algerian migration to France”, History in Focus; Issue 11: Migration, 2006, http://www.history.ac.uk, (accessed: April 7th, 2014).
[8] Leo Lucassen, The Immigrant Threat: Studies of World Migrants, (Chicago: University of Illinois Press: 2005) ,p.19
[9]Leo Lucassen, The Immigrant Threat: Studies of World Migrants, (Chicago: University of Illinos Press: 2005) ,, p.24
[10] Leo Lucassen, The Immigrant Threat: Studies of World Migrants, (Chicago: University of Illinois Press: 2005), p.20
[11]Leo Lucassen, The Immigrant Threat: Studies of World Migrants, (Chicago: University of Illinois Press: 2005), p.20
[12]Leo Lucassen, The Immigrant Threat: Studies of World Migrants, (Chicago: University of Illinois Press: 2005), p.21
[13] Leo Lucassen, The Immigrant Threat: Studies of World Migrants, (Chicago: University of Illinois Press: 2005), p.21
[14]Leo Lucassen, The Immigrant Threat: Studies of World Migrants, (Chicago: University of Illinois Press: 2005), p.26
[15] Leo Lucassen, The Immigrant Threat: Studies of World Migrants, (Chicago: University of Illinos Press: 2005) p.26
[16] Nabila Ramdami, “French- Algerians are still Second Class Citizens”, The Guardian, December 2012, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/dec/19/french-algerians-still-second-class, (Accessed April 7th, 2014).
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 Excerpts from a presentation I gave in the Summer of 2015. 


When I need to write or speak on something I usually head straight to the dictionary first to see what exactly a word means. So influence I found is defined as “The capacity to have an effect on the CHARACTER, DEVELOPMENT, or BEHAVIOUR of someone or something.” The character, development, or behaviour. Those are big things in our lives that affect who we are. I think of influence as those things or those people that cause us to live our lives in a certain way. All of us whether we recognize it or not are influenced by something, in fact most of us are influenced by multiple things. I asked a few people what influences them and here are a few of their answers: friends, family, the media, Facebook, music, alcohol, religion, culture.
In my life I know I am often influenced by my family, my friends, all of the different trends in the world and what’s popular in the media. But what is the big deal when it comes to influence why does it matter so much? Well it’s actually a subject that’s been studied in depth for years and years. Psychologists have long studied the science of influence and the affect it has on us. It has been shown through these studies that our environment and the ‘influencers’ in our life have a higher and larger impact on us than probably anyone ever imagined.

Growing up I think I was influenced a lot by the decisions my friends were making. I had the kind of personality that wanted to be the center of attention and to always be the one to do it bigger and better. And so my friends could easily influence me with chants of “oh you won’t do it.” That was like an automatic sign for me that I was going to do that thing.

This didn’t change as I grew up a little. When I was about 12 years old I was at one of my friends house playing video games. I am super competitive and so when my friend said “Hey how about we up the stakes” I obviously said YES PLEASE. The plan was that she was going to spin me around in a chair really fast for a bit so that when I stopped I had to play the video game dizzy and see how well I could do. I was game for this since I was the great Em Zups who could be the best at anything. Things were going well until I span right off into a glass table and smacked my head. 8 stitches above my eye and a lot of regret later here I am today.


Now I am still super competitive, but I have grown up a little bit and different things influence me now. In a single day there are probably about a hundred little and big things that influence my character, development, and behaviour. When I wake up the weather influences the kind of outfit I’m going to wear, what’s popular in the trends influences the kind of clothes I will pick out, my friends influence what activities I will do that day and the kind of conversations I have, and the people around me influence the meals I will be eating. There are things that we probably don’t even think about that influence us. Artists, song lyrics and music video’s influence our behaviours, magazines and celebrity photo’s influence the way we see ourselves and our standard for beauty, movies and television shows influence our development and our opinions.

There was a psychology study done on the influence that violent images in movies had on viewers and I’m sure the results will surprise you. I’ll bet most of you right now are thinking that you’re above being influenced by movies or video games, and that you would never fall into that category of being influenced. However the study found that the girls and boys who played violent video games changed over the course of a year and they became more aggressive than the boys and girls who did not play violent video games.

If a simple video game can influence our development and behaviour than imagine what the larger stuff in our lives is doing.

I wonder if any of you have ever thought about what influences you in your life and how that affects you? Do you ever act one way with certain friends and a different way in front of other friends? Do you ever make decisions based on what is cool or what is popular? Maybe its sports, or television, or your friends or family that influences your character, development or behaviour.

For me- my older siblings have a large influence on me, as do my parents and my friends. Growing up it was always friends and family that influenced me the most. My parents place a large emphasis on excellence and as a result that influenced my behavior. I have always wanted to be the best at what I do and I always competed in things at a high level. If my older siblings excelled at something than I was always influenced to try whatever it was they were doing and then try and do it better. The way my friends acted changed and influenced how I acted. And what they thought was cool influenced what I thought was cool. However I slowly began to realize as I grew up through my teens that I actually had more of an influence on myself than anyone else did.

My biggest struggle has always been my inner critic. That’s like the little voice inside your head that critiques you or gives opinions about your life. Have any of you ever heard a voice like that in your head? Everyone’s voice sounds different, and some of you may not even hear one but my inner critic is loud and mean and constantly telling me things about myself that influence how I live my life. That voice will whisper that I’m not pretty enough when I look in the mirror, or that I’m too fat when I’m down at the docks. That voice tells me I’m not smart enough or that I’m not athletic enough, or that I’m too loud or bossy when I lead people. This voice keeps me from doing things and sometimes causes me to do things I regret. It’s the voices that tells me I should follow the cool crowd or wear certain things, or holds me back from taking chances. This is a voice that is constantly influencing my character, development and my behaviour.
Sometimes our influences are so sneaky and so engrained in our lives that we stop noticing how much they are actually influencing us. It has been like that for me in the past. Those voices in my head became so natural to me that for years they became a normal part of my everyday life and they became the singular truth that I heard. This doesn’t mean there weren’t good influences in my life at this time it just means that for years I have chosen for that inner critic of mine to be the loudest influencer. 


For so long I built my life on material things that I let influence me; my friends, my grades, sports, and the voices in my head. Those things are like sand, they are not sturdy and when things get tough they are not strong enough to hold me. Friendships and relationships can end, tragedy can strike, trends often change, and your athletic and artistic abilities will go up and down and may not last. Putting your trust and getting your influence from these things is like building your house on sand. It won’t end well. I believe in God. His truths are constant. He has loved each of you since before you were born and His love never waivers. None of your actions can increase or decrease his love for you. It isn’t earned – it’s freely given. That’s the rock to build your life upon.

I wake up every morning and choose to remember that truth. I choose for that to be my influence. I choose to surround my self with people who remind me of these truths and bring out the best in me. It isn’t always easy and some days I fail, but then the next day I try and I choose again. Whatever it is that we surround ourselves with and build our lives on influences us. It has an effect on our CHARACTER, DEVELOPMENT, and BEHAVIOUR. That’s pretty crazy. The things that we surround ourselves with literally change how we live our lives and who we are as people. So build your life on truth. Allow your influences to be something positive and powerful. And choose to hear the truth.


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