Prejudice often proves an insurmountable barrier in the housing market, either by neighbourhoods that want to maintain their cultural identity by excluding strangers, or by landlords.
However the days when you could get away, as was visible in parts of 1970s Britain for example, with displaying signs saying “No blacks, Irish or Dogs” in public, were supposed to be behind us.
Now the French state, backed by civil rights groups, is taking action against one of the country’s biggest letting agencies and the owner of a flat who demanded they advertise his property for rent only to “people of French nationality, not black”.
Laforet_france</a> "Pas de noir" c'est quel genre de critères?<a href="https://twitter.com/SOS_Racisme">SOS_Racisme
Defenseurdroits</a>, est-ce légal..?J'ai un doute...<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Discrimination?src=hash">#Discrimination</a> <a href="https://t.co/cWu2dCCKGt">pic.twitter.com/cWu2dCCKGt</a></p>— Mous_bm (mous_bm) November 25, 2016
Strictly illegal in France as in many other EU member states, the advert went viral on social media when someone spotted it and expressed their outrage. The agency, Laforet, in the chic Paris suburb of Levallois, has expressed its shock but claims the advert was posted by a young inexperienced member of staff after the flats “racist” owner insisted.
France is currently grappling with racism expressed in another domain, the jobs market. With members from the immigrant community or native French born of non-European parents far more likely to be unemployed, there are claims employers bin CVs straight away if they see the job applicant’s name is Mohammed or Abdoulaye, for example.
In 2015 there was a public debate about whether or not to allow job applicants to submit anonymous CVs without a photo in a bid to get around potential race issues, but it was quietly kicked into the long grass.