[update below] [2nd update below] [3rd update below]
How low can Jean-François Copé go? In his knock-down-drag-out fight with François Fillon for the presidency of the UMP—on which the 260K party members will vote on November 18th—Copé has scraped the bottom of the extreme right toilet in his denunciation of the supposed existence of “anti-white racism” (racisme anti-blanc) in France, which figures in his just published campaign book, Manifeste pour une droite décomplexée (here and here). The title is more than apt, as the mainstream right has indeed lost its complexes. For the president of the major party of the parliamentary right—grouping neo-Gaullists, the droite libérale, and even centrists—to speak about racial categories in this way and adopt the most abject demagogic rhetoric of the Front National is something one would not have seen a decade ago—and the mainstream right has been lifting FN rhetoric on immigration since the 1980s, though with limits. Not even Sarkozy went quite this far. The UMP, like the US Republicans, is lurching hard right—and it’s the base of the party that’s pulling the leadership along, not the other way around. Marine Le Pen, who is exulting, is accusing Copé of copyright infringement, of stealing the Front’s discourse, though implicitly dividing French society into racial categories is, in fact, relatively recent for the FN. Racialist rhetoric has normally been associated with the Bloc Identitaire and other sulfurous groupuscules on the outer fringes of the extreme right. Until the past decade the FN would rail on against “le racisme anti-Français” among immigrants from the African continent, a formulation that accented the national, not the racial (though implying that the French were a race that one could be racist against).
Whatever the category, the notion that there is such a phenomenon in France—of “anti-white” or “anti-French” racism—is so laughably absurd that the UMP leadership—which has by-and-large been echoing Copé’s words today—cannot possibly take it seriously. It is a phantasm of the extreme right, existing only in its delirous imagination. In explaining what he means by “anti-white racism” Le Parisien thus quotes Copé
le «racisme anti-blanc» se manifeste «dans certains quartiers par un regard, une agression, une insulte, qui donne envie à un certain nombre de nos compatriotes de fuir le quartier où ils habitent parce qu’on leur fait comprendre qu’ils ne sont pas chez eux. C’est insupportable.» [Copé] ajoute : «Je me réfère au terrain, à ce que j’entends comme député-maire de Meaux. Je me dois de dire la vérité, de dire les choses comme elles sont.»
In other words, Copé is uncritically relating anecdotes of a few Français de souche in Meaux (his electoral fief), of how some immigrant-origin kids once said something rude to them. Ce n’est vraiment pas très sérieux. But, again, what is particularly disturbing about this is not just the inanity of the notion of an “anti-white racism” but the readiness of mainstream politicians to speak about French society in such racialized terms (and where Copé et al would presumably identify themselves as “blanc“). This is new in France. That the UMP would so shamelessly raid the extreme right’s ideological tiroir-caisse and break a taboo in the process is not only reprehensible but alarming as well. La France est sur une bien mauvaise pente.
UPDATE: A Master’s student named Yann Solle has a good tribune in Slate.fr, “«Racisme anti-blanc»: Jean-François Copé vide les mots de leur sens.”
2nd UPDATE: On the Nouvel Obs website Mohamed du Val d’Oise says “‘Racisme anti-Blanc’ : M. Copé, je suis Arabe, laissez-moi vous expliquer le racisme.”
3rd UPDATE: Academic specialist of Great Britain Olivier Esteves has a tribune in Le Monde on “L’énorme ficelle du ‘racisme anti-Blanc’.” (October 1)