How racist are you?
Roudy stared at her, blinking. ‘What makes you think I’m looking for anyone?’
It was Magali’s turn to be taken aback. ‘Well, if Benamrouche is innocent, the investigation has to start over from scratch. Isn’t that what you’re doing? You are certain he’s innocent, right?’
‘Since publishing those pieces, I’ve had death threats myself, I get hate mail by the dozen, I’ve been insulted and spat on.’ He shook his head wearily. ‘Yes, I’m certain.’
‘Why such reactions? You mean no one believes you?’
‘My editor supports me. So far.’ He leant forward, tapping his finger on the table. ‘Do you know how many people vote National Front around here? In Wallenheim, where Albert Roncet lived, it’s more than seventy per cent. Roncet himself was racist as hell, he made no secret of it. So what’s he doing letting an Arab into his home?’
I can’t remember the name of the village in Alsace where nearly everyone voted for Jean-Marie Le Pen – now in my mind, it’s the fictitious village of Wallenheim in One Green Bottle. But these things fluctuate, and today, the honour goes to Brachay, Haute Marne, where 87% voted FN. But you won’t find any racists in Brachay, because there aren’t any racists anywhere. That’s why it’s always I’m not racist, but.. not (unless you’re Albert Roncet), Yes, I’m racist. So what? As a sin, racism is up there with being a psychopath.
As for Marine Le Pen herself, she’ll threaten to sue you if you call her racist. In one sense, she’s right, because as scientists often repeat, the concept of ‘race’ as applied to ethnic groups has no biological foundation. Le Pen will happily claim, then, that since there are no different races, the concept of ‘racism’ is meaningless. But that, of course, is disingenuous, because the fact is that ‘racism’ does have a meaning: the belief that people’s qualities are influenced by their race and that the members of other races are not as good as the members of your own, or the resulting unfair treatment of members of other races (Cambridge Dictionary).
Marine Le Pen would never admit to that, though. She isn’t racist, but anti-immigration. In that case, why, I wonder, do I still get the impression she’s racist? And I’m not the only one: according to a recent poll, 54% of French people consider Le Pen as racist. I’d be happier, though, if that percentage was higher. What it says to me is that up to a point, her arguments and denials are getting the message across.
But perhaps I’m a hypocrite. What if I’m a racist too? How do I measure it? Well, one way is to take the Implicit Association Test. So I did, using the French version. And as it turns out, I am. They don’t actually use the term: I show a ‘moderate automatic preference’ for people of French origin over those of North African origin. How do they know this? Because I’m quicker to associate a name like Brigitte or Christophe with a positive quality such as joy or laughter than I am when the name is Mohamed or Fatima.
I wasn’t unduly surprised. I’ve known about the test for a while and my non-racist friends who’ve taken it are racist too. In the questionnaire afterwards, I was asked if the results ‘reflected the culture in which I live, but not me personally’. I said no. Because to agree would be the easy way out: it’s the fault of the media, not me. And it’s hard to distinguish in any case. The IAT predates the recent wave of terrorist attacks in France, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the country as a whole has grown more racist since the first one on Charlie Hebdo. But I’m not going to claim that my results would have been different if I’d taken the test before.
The IAT calls for a behavioural response – you have to actually do something (press a key), not just lie in a fMRI machine looking at pictures or words. And the point about behaviour is that (fortunately) it isn’t always automatic There’s what goes on in our brain at a subconscious level, and what we choose to say and do. Which is why I don’t go round insulting Arabs. But that’s precisely what Albert Roncet does, along with a fair proportion of FN voters like him.
A shame Albert gets bumped off in the first chapter. We’ll never know how he would have fared on the IAT. On the other hand, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion. As it would be with Le Pen.
Now having got that off my chest, I’m off to take the Psychopath Test.