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26-10-2010
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Anti-racism groups plan to sue Guerlain
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French perfume house Guerlain faces legal action over racist comments
Anti-racism groups plan to sue perfume house after Jean-Paul Guerlain's remark on national TV

Angelique Chrisafis in Paris
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 24 October 2010 16.47 BST

Protesters gathered outside Guerlain's Paris shop after Jean-Paul Guerlain said he "worked like a n****r" on a perfume. Photograph: Bertrand Langlois/AFP/Getty Images

Anti-racism groups in France are to sue the perfume house Guerlain after one of its best known perfumiers said he "worked like a n****r" to create a new scent.

Around 100 protesters gathered outside the Guerlain store on the Champs Elysées this weekend, calling for a worldwide boycott of the perfume house and its owner, the luxury brand, Louis Vuitton-Moët Hennessy, because of the racist slur.

Quote:

Jean-Paul Guerlain. Photograph: Olivier Laban-Mattei/AFP/Getty Images
Jean-Paul Guerlain, 73, a descendent of the perfume house's founder, was interviewed on French state TV last week, and asked about the creation of a new perfume, Samsara. He replied: "I worked like a n****r. I don't know if n****rs have always worked like that, but anyway."
Patrick Lozès, of France's Representative Council of Black Associations, said the French word "nègre" used by Guerlain was an "extremely pejorative" and "racist" term equivalent to "n****r" in English.

He said that the fact Guerlain felt so at ease using it on national TV was symptom of the "deep sickness" of racism in French society. He condemned LVMH and the Guerlain company for not reacting to the comments quickly enough.

US civil rights leaders, including Al Sharpton, who will visit France next month, are to ask for a meeting with Nicolas Sarkozy to discuss Guerlain's comments.

Guerlain, a famous "nose", or perfume developer, retired from the company in 2002 but acts as a consultant to their top perfumier. He issued a statement apologising for his "shocking words" and said he took full responsibility.

Guerlain head office said his words were unacceptable. LVMH released a statement condemning "all forms of racism". Christine Lagarde, France's finance minister, said Guerlain's comments were "pathetic".
guardian.co.uk

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Last edited by sethii; 26-10-2010 at 02:39 AM.
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26-10-2010
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well I mean he's saying that black people work hard, isn't that busting down sterotypes??

but in all seriousness, white people, especially smarmy frenchmen, should NOT use that word.

he knows that, you know that, I know that. it's just common sense, J-P.

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26-10-2010
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im sorry, but what exactly is an 'anti-racist group?' wouldn't that just be humanity?

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26-10-2010
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Is there precedent for this type of lawsuit in France?

I'm surprised to hear someone would be sued over this, unless there are strict hate speech statutes (perhaps resulting from WWII).

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26-10-2010
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^ I'm surprised, isn't it the same in other western countries? French aren't the lawsuit type like in US but this kind of legal actions aren't rare. Perhaps you heard of Brigitte Bardot? I don't know if it's a cultural thing resulting from WW2 but antisemitism is indeed taken very seriously by french Justice. Considering the laws against racism a person who says things that are considered by some as racist or stigmatizing might get sued by the person insulted or an organization fighting racism (whether it's about race, religion... works the same way for homophobia).

In the present case the french expression "to work like a n*gg*r" ("travailler comme un nègre") is a set phrase. It used to be popular among the people from J.P. Guerlain's generation. That's why to me this first phrase wasn't really surprising or having a racist connotation in the mouth of someone this age, though it was not one to use on TV. The shocking thing is that he adds something along the line of "... admitting n*gg*rs ever worked." He's no longer using inappropriate language but the racist stereotype of lazy black people. The word "n*gg*r" is not used in a set expression anymore but in a quiet, casual way.

The interview aired 13 days ago, on a friday, on one of the biggest TV channel. Internet reacted instantaneously aswell as anti-racist organizations but there was only little reaction from the mainstream medias. It got bigger after the weekend and was much talked about last week, leading to a debate about ordinary racism in France today and how a racist speech on a big media almost went unnoticed. J.P. Guerlain apologized on the evening but the Guerlain company thought about it for a while before condemning the words 3 days after...
I don't kow if J.P. Guerlain is a racist or not, even though he's well educated he does belong to an old generation. I believe it's less about him than about the actual climate in France and it's just the straw that broke the camel's back.


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26-10-2010
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Thanks for the explanation. The US is certainly more litigious, but legal action is rare over heavily-publicized racial slurs. Someone may be sued for comments/harassment directed at a specific person or organization, but never for a broadly focused statement like Guerlin's.

I was aware of Bardot's views, but somehow I hadn't realized she was fined for them. Free speech is more of an absolute right in the US, even if it is discriminatory or hate speech. Generally, the only legal restrictions are for obscenity, defamation, and inciting a riot.

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27-10-2010
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Typical... Not surprised...

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27-10-2010
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Wow , that's ridiculous

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28-10-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LabelWhore4 View Post
Typical... Not surprised...
All white old men are racist, everyone knows that...or what are you getting at?

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28-10-2010
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They've already caused damages by getting the press to show Guerlain's photo. And I used to think of Bianca Balti when I heard the name Guerlain...

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28-10-2010
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Does the French word "nègre" really mean "n****r"? I thought that the n word was strictly an English-language colloquialism.

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28-10-2010
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^ Yes. The french words "noir" (black) and "nègre" (n*gg*r) come from the latin word "niger" (just like "negro" in spanish). Since english is a german language I would assume the english word "n*gg*r" is derived from the language of the european colonists. But well, as much as I love linguistics I'm not an expert lol.

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28-10-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The_Ida View Post
All white old men are racist, everyone knows that...or what are you getting at?
They tend to be the least sensitive when it comes to racial matters. Just my experience.

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28-10-2010
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Am I going to hell for laughing at that?

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28-10-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fantomette View Post
^ Yes. The french words "noir" (black) and "nègre" (n*gg*r) come from the latin word "niger" (just like "negro" in spanish). Since english is a german language I would assume the english word "n*gg*r" is derived from the language of the european colonists. But well, as much as I love linguistics I'm not an expert lol.
The reason I asked is because in Spanish there is a similar old saying, which translates as "I worked like a negro". In Spanish there is no word that means "n****r", and the word "negro" simply means "black" or "black person".
And I would guess that the saying itself derives from the days of slavery.

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