France using PR to fight against discrimination

french public relations

With the swelling numbers of immigrants and fear of militant jihadists throughout Europe, there has been a growing trend toward intolerance from far-right groups. Like many places, France has some views that support both sides of the problem, but within the last couple of weeks, they’ve begun PR campaigns to quell the rising tide and bring more equality back to the way people think and act.

Launching a three-year, $115 million (100€ million) plan fighting discrimination and racism, Giles Clavreul, head of a ministerial organization overseeing these efforts – DILCRA, said, “We cannot just sit and watch rising populism, extremism, and radicalism in all its forms, to have this threat in the middle of our republic.”

While some support these efforts, other suggest the government and such groups add to the problem. Pointing to how the government outlawed the Muslim veil (niqab) and headscarf from being worn in public schools and institutions such as government buildings or hospitals. It doesn’t help that France has a ban on gathering any official data related to ethnicity or race either because it makes it more difficult to track what is happening.

Others believe the efforts are good, but that such changes in thinking takes time and effort. Christine Lazerges, president of CNCDH, an advisory group on human rights, said, “There’s a real political will, but it will take 20 years to achieve success.” A May 2nd report from her group shows rising tolerance, particularly surprising to hear after the Paris terrorist attacks recently. But information from 2015 showed a 20 percent increase in hate attacks from 2014 and reported hate acts against Muslims tripled. Many believe those numbers are higher since acts often go unreported.

Still others feel the new PR campaign treats discrimination as if it is always found in less subtle acts. The Montaigne Institute, a think tank in Paris showed on a recent French Hiring survey that Christian men are four times more likely to hear from employers for a callback than Muslim men, and Jewish men also face discrimination.

In March, the French government launched six, 30-second TV spots re-enacting “real life” racist and anti-Semitic acts such as Muslims finding a pig’s head stuck to the mosque gate and “death to Jews” scrawled on a synagogue door.

Clavreul admitted, “We had to create a shock, to say ‘Hey, stop, we have to address these issues.” Other groups feel these spots offer only the worst view of discrimination, not showing the harm in using humiliating or wounding words – maybe even dismissing the impact of more subtle forms.

Roger Cukierman, head of CRIF, a Jewish group, feels the PR may not be very efficient in stemming more than 10 years of rising anti-Semitism, saying, “It’s a matter of education; the work has to be done in schools and with parents. Youngsters were not born anti-Semitic.”

The government’s second national campaign offers giant posters portraying job seekers with their faces split in half — white and nonwhite They say, “Skills First,” and next to the white side are messages like, “You start Monday.” On the nonwhite: “You don’t have the profile.”

Clavreul’s efforts moving forward will be to harness volunteers for school education and job mentoring programs. He said, “We don’t have a one-sided strategy. We are very pragmatic. We have to be holistic in our approach.”

As is frequently the case, getting the word out with a PR campaign is a great first step toward finding a solution.

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