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For 3rd straight night, clashes erupted across France between protesters, police

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

For the third straight night in France, police clashed with protesters in major cities across the country. The demonstrations are showing no signs of abating and were triggered by the fatal police shooting of a 17-year-old of North African descent in a Paris suburb earlier this week. The killing is fueling anger over police violence in France, especially toward racial minorities. Joining me now to discuss this is Crystal Fleming. She's a sociology professor at Stony Brook University and the author of "Resurrecting Slavery: Racial Legacies And White Supremacy In France." Good morning.

CRYSTAL FLEMING: Good morning. Thanks for having me.

FADEL: Thank you for being here. Are these demonstrations about this one killing or something bigger?

FLEMING: Oh, it's about something much bigger. You know, in any society, the policing that we see and discrimination that takes place reflects the biases of that society and that society's history. In the case of France, they have a long history of colonial racism that has targeted Arab and Black people in particular in France. And so it really matters that this boy who was killed was North African - French North African, we should be clear. But French people who are Arab, French people who are North African are racialized as nonwhite. And what that has entailed historically is colonial oppression.

In this particular case, Nahel comes from a family of Algerian origin, and the French colonial oppression of Algerians began in the early 1800s. So this is a long history. And the many people listening are probably familiar with the fact that there was a massive war for - you know, in Algeria for independence, and that resulted in the deaths, according to the Algerian government, of over 1 million Algerian people who were fighting to overthrow French colonialism. So it's part of a much longer history of policing but also colonial violence and a racialized ideology that both combines discrimination with denial. So in France, it's very common for not just ordinary people, but government authorities to claim that race and racism don't exist in France.

FADEL: Do you think that will change in the wake of this killing? I mean, we've seen the French government respond quickly. The president called the shooting unforgivable. The officer is now charged with voluntary homicide, but the protests continued. Do you see that this might create a significant change or opening?

FLEMING: Well, one of the things I noticed is that the president claimed that what happened was - his language was - inexcusable, but he also described it as inexplicable. And the reality is that it's not inexplicable. It's not rocket science. It's racism. And so, you know, yes, there has been an effort to, you know, serve justice by holding this one police officer or the officers involved accountable. But that typically reflects a kind of bad-apples approach, which means that, you know, as opposed to acknowledging that what happened is a result of systemic racism in France, you know, it's one individual or one police officer's, you know, to blame.

FADEL: Crystal Fleming is a sociology professor at Stony Brook University. Thank you for taking the time.

FLEMING: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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