Culture Magazine

The Jeunes De Banlieue and Me

By Sedulia @Sedulia

Jeunes de banlieue in the 1995 movie La Haine

A bande de jeunes de banlieue (group of youths from the suburbs*) in track suits approached me on the sidewalk in a cosy part of the 16th arrondissement. They were coming straight towards me, but looking tentative. I saw the old ladies of the neighborhood rush to the other side of the street. The children in their tennis clothes grabbed each other and held each other back from crossing the path of the "youths." But the boys just seemed lost to me. With a glance I let them know I was friendly. They stopped in relief.

"Madame, can you tell us how to get to the Hippodrome de Longchamp?" they said.

"Are you going to the terrain de foot [soccer field] nearby?" They nodded. "It's not very close to here," I said. "But I have a map. Let's look."

They all crowded around the little Paris booklet I carry in my pocket. "See, there's the Hippodrome, and here we are," I said. "But there's a bus you can take."

We figured out how they could get there. The boys, all about 16, were effusively thankful and polite, each one thanking me separately. "Merci beaucoup, Madame. So nice of you, Madame. Thank you for the information, Madame. Have a very good day, Madame."

Of course it's much easier to be the unprejudiced one when it's not your own country. 


*Banlieue in French has a very different connotation from "suburb" in English. It's where the housing projects are.

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