France has a long tradition of official blindness to race, ethnicity, and religion; all citizens, in theory, are equally French. But in practice, French companies are reluctant to hire employees with non-French names or addresses in ethnic neighborhoods, and France's 555-member parliament has only 1 MP of color. In a major speech yesterday, Nicolas Sarkozy called official equality a sham and vowed, unlike any president before him, to make diversity a French virtue.
As the Guardian reports, France's republican worship of liberty, equality, and fraternity goes so far that government is barred from even gathering statistics on its minority populations. But Sarkozy has now appointed a diversity commissioner to investigate how best to end the white stranglehold on higher education, the civil service, and the media. In his speech Sarkozy took a page from Barack Obama, whom he admires, and repeatedly called on France to deliver changement: change.