Faced with discrimination

The experience of discrimination has a direct impact on the physical and psychological health of individuals, weakening their self-esteem and limiting their opportunities. Neighborhood residents react to this evidence on a daily basis and are mobilizing politically to confront it.

at a time when the political and scientific debate on racial questions resurfaces, The test of discrimination offers beneficial work on what discriminatory experiences do to residentsare working-class neighborhoods. The work aims to highlight the social suffering and the ordinary and collective resistance of those who are confrontedes unequal treatment because of their origins, their skin color or their religion. To do this, it uses a corpus of 245 interviews, backed by ethnographic observations in six cities in France (Blanc-Mesnil, Grenoble, Lormont, Roubaix, Vaulx-en-Velin, Villepinte) and in three mirror sites carried out abroad (London, Montreal, Los Angeles).

The extent of discrimination having been widely demonstrated statistically, the authorsThey approach this question from the point of view of its biographical implications in line with two major investigations: Why me ? (2013) around François Dubet in France and Getting Respect (2016) around Michle Lamont in the United States, Brazil and Israel. Of these works, the authorsThey take up the comprehensive methodology (centered on the life stories of the people concerned), the conceptual framework (distinguishing microaggressions, stigmatization, discrimination and violence) and typological ambition regarding the range of possible reactions to discrimination. They nevertheless distinguish themselves by an assumed anchoring in political sociology, placing the question of the politicization of these experiences at the heart of the analysis.

A phenomenology of discriminatory experience

Because it is interested in subjective experiences, the book takes up the phenomenological approach proposed by Lamont and his team, attentive to the way in which people experience and interpret discrimination. The interview quotes mesh the demonstration, the words and the voice of the interviewerspermeate each page to convey what discrimination “does to bodies and souls” (p. 2) and the way in which it is felt (on the emotional level) and included (cognitively).

The work begins by documenting the different affects that discrimination arouses. Sadness, anger, but also feelings of shame and exclusion tire the body and result in crying, feelings of unease and dissociation. Social suffering is heard in its most embodied manifestations, affecting in the long term the physical and psychological health of individuals and affecting their self-image.

Beyond emotions, discriminatory experiences also activate a set of cognitive processes, already well studied by Philomena Essed, which make it possible to give meaning to these experiences. People who are discriminated against say they have difficulty identifying with certainty a particular interaction as discriminatory, using various mechanisms to objectify them (by discussing it with loved ones, by comparing similar profiles, or even by carrying out “self-testing” in their job search). . This proof of doubt as to the reality of one's own experience reinforced by the Republican universalist context quick to deny racial inequalities questions the existence of a minority relationship to reality, made of uncertainties and hesitations produced by various structures of domination. For fear of discredit, people who are discriminated against are often reluctant to discuss these experiences in interviews (especially to the interviewer).are perceivedyou're like whitehes and middle class), feeling obliged to provide “proof” of their feelings so as not to appear to be “victimizing themselves”.

Reactions and resistance

The affective and cognitive apprehension of discrimination finds its extension in the study ofagency of minoritized people, that is to say their capacity for action and resistance.

The book first highlights the reactive dimension of belonging in the face of otherness that the inhabitantshe working-class neighborhoods are suffering. The fact of being deniede as a French citizene and stigmatise because of their skin color, their origins or their religion leads them to appropriate minority collective identifications. The people interviewed thus describe the way in which they come to invest in categories to which the media, political speeches and ordinary interactions constantly refer them. If ethno-racial affiliations (“we Blackses and the Arabs”) and religious (“we Muslimses”) prove to be more significant than a territorial affiliation (the respondents expressing an attachment to their neighborhood rather than to “working-class neighborhoods” in general), they nevertheless remain fragile, because they are widely discredited as “communitarian” in the French public space. The work outlines these memberships in their plurality, emphasizing that they are neither exclusive nor incompatible with a strong national identification (p. 138).

Beyond this group consciousness, the surveysare actively reacting to discrimination, the perpetratorsare distinguishing strategies of composition and confrontation which are not “strictly contradictory” (p. 142): the same individual is likely to use various tactics depending on his dispositions, the context of the discriminatory experience, and whether it is a matter of reacting briefly or long term. At the time of interaction, people can alternatively favor a certain “self-management” (by taking upon themselves or minimizing discrimination in order to “succeed” despite everything), avoid conflict, respond with humor or verbally or physically confront the aggressor. In the longer term, minoritised people can implement strategies to make the stigma invisible (by not mentioning their place of residence or their surname), a form of composition more often taken by graduates.es of superiority or seeking social success by working more than others (p. 165) or by becoming an entrepreneures (p. 167). They can also deploy “quiet” protest actions, by expressing their dissent through certain types of clothing, by reacting to police intimidation via graffiti or insults, or by taking over public space through spontaneous gatherings. Nevertheless, faced with the social and psychological cost of the protest and faced with a recourse to the law perceived as hazardous (p. 176) particularly in a context of strong police discrimination and ignorance of legal and institutional measures some express resignation, a feeling of weariness and helplessness.

Politicization of injustice

However, it is precisely this question of resignation and its counterpart the choice of a certain resistance, individual or collective in the face of discrimination which constitutes the heart of the work. Its main contribution lies in the analysis of politicization processes, by cross-studying the framing of discrimination as unjust, ordinary practices of resistance, and anti-racist struggles. Alternating between a broad definition of politicization (understood as an increase in general and conflictualization) and a restricted definition (which refers only to the specialized political field, p. 68-70), the analysis bridges the gap between individual experience and collective action, with the ambition of analyzing in a processual manner the passage from one to the other.

These politicization processes are closely linked to proven emotions and the work of identifying discrimination, the authorsare seeking to clarify the way in which the feeling of injustice is constructed and actualized. What dispositions (emotional, cognitive, moral) and what events (encounters, shocks) allow victims to experience discriminatory experiences as “unjust”, because they conflict with their normative expectations in terms of equal treatment? Under what conditions are these situations of injustice thought of as being a matter of individual responsibility or, on the contrary, of systemic and institutional causes? Based on these questions, the authorsThey seek to understand what politicizing means as closely as possible to people's experiences, in an unfavorable context in terms of individual resources and institutional constraints. They depict ordinary protest practices relating to “street politics”, embodied in logics of appropriation of urban spaces (with the organization of barbecues or “wild” swimming pools for example) and deviant behavior vis-à-vis dominant norms ( as when celebrating African football teams in a context of suspicion of their national loyalty). However, this identification of politics in its multiple facets is not always obvious: does the assertion that discrimination is due to the “collective imagination” in France (p. 76) reflect a form of politicization conducive to action? Or does it stem from an essentialization of French society nourishing a certain fatalism about its possibilities for development and, ultimately, a posture of resignation? Conversely, can we not assume that certain forms of resignation and apathy are politicized, that is to say backed by a politically constructed and informed discourse, and potentially favorable to emancipatory self-realizations? Finally, is it fair to consider reactions to discrimination along a linear axis of politicization, going from resignation to mobilization and making “collective action taken” (p. 265) a certain normative horizon?

In dialogue with these ordinary forms of politicization, the survey finally looks at the trajectories of engagement within local associations, countering media and academic stereotypes according to which working-class neighborhoods are political deserts. She deciphers the mechanisms leading to more institutionalized forms of politicization, this type of militant engagement nourishing forms ofempowerment and self-empowerment as a citizen. Such trajectories are more often the result of descendingare immigratedes who have university resources and are socially mobile, but can also result from strong social ties in neighborhoods (p. 217) or from moral shocks due to traumatic events (p. 219). The members of these associations are confrontedare structural obstacles, first and foremost the risk of disqualification of their cause and the difficulty of asserting discrimination as systemic in the face of a Republican discourse hostile to the vocabulary of race and public action mechanisms which emphasize individual prejudices. Faced with such constraints, activistsThey then more easily resort to awareness-raising and popular education work via the organization of festivals, training, and conferences aimed at recognizing the prevalence of discriminatory experiences that are often invisible in French society than protest modes of action. If their actions have limited political effects, some contexts appear more favorable than others, revealing the heterogeneity of “working-class neighborhoods”. Even if the authorsThey underline above all the inertia of local public policies, left-oriented municipalities thus seem to demonstrate more voluntarism in the fight against discrimination, while the presence of cause entrepreneurs within local institutions can facilitate the setting of these themes on the political agenda. .

The work thus maps the biographical incidences of discriminatory experiences based on an original focus on politicization processes. through its entry through working-class neighborhoods, considered as “magnifying, but also perhaps distorting, mirrors of intersectional forms of social stratification” (p. 26), it invites us to revisit these dynamics in other contexts, without necessarily resorting to a territorial framing which could unintentionally contribute to a spatialization of social problems.