The avant-gardiste decision of President Macron to rewrite Article 1 the French Constitution by abolishing the notion of race, may well be a source of inspiration for us on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of our own Constitution.
Article 1 of the French Constitution reads:
“France shall be an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic. It shall ensure the equality of all citizens before the law, without distinction of origin, race or religion. It shall respect all beliefs”….
Once approved by the National Assembly, Article 1 will do away with the term race. It will henceforth read “equality of all citizens before the law, without distinction of origin, sex or religion”.
The proposal is based on the notion that there is only one race: the human race. And as human beings we are one and the same enjoying equal rights. It reflects the fundamental values enunciated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in recognising all humans as one family with equal and inalienable rights and inherent dignity. It means equal respect for everyone on the grounds of our common humanity. It cannot be by sheer coincidence that both documents were drafted in the post war era much geared towards eradicating the Nazi ideology of a superior race. The French drafters ensured that there would be no longer prejudice based on a racial distinction and they provided: “In the morrow of the victory achieved by the free peoples over the regimes that had sought to enslave and degrade humanity, the people of France proclaim anew that each human being, without distinction of race, religion or creed, possesses sacred and inalienable rights.”
Save that today it is felt that the recognition of the notion of race as a means to prevent prejudice on such grounds is unintentionally having the contrary effect by encouraging more racial hatred and discrimination. It has become its own source of division.
The thinking behind the proposal to rewrite Article 1 came from the Chairman of the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism. In an article published in Le Monde newspaper, Mario Stasi explained that the notion of race had been included in the 1946 Constitution after the second World War by politicians who wanted to fight the ideology of the Nazis who believed in the superiority of the Aryan race. Stasi argued that the notion of race in the constitution has been counter-productive and has “unwittingly promoted the cause they were seeking to fight”.
The abolition of the notion of race does not mean that a person cannot enforce his rights on the grounds that he has been prejudiced or discriminated. He will be able to seek protection on the grounds of his origins, a more acceptable and accurate term.
What better argument in favour of the Macron constitutional amendment as we watch the World Cup and see the rainbow coalition of the human race.
Newsletter ODPP – June 2018
* Published in print edition on 6 July 2018