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A Tale of Two Countries

The Politics of Color Blindness in France and the United States

Robert Lieberman

France and the United States are commonly portrayed as proceeding from diametrically opposed presumptions in their approaches to race policy.1 The United States, this line of argument goes, has pursued a race-conscious approach to attacking racial discrimination, developing policies such as affirmative action that offer compensatory advantages to members of historically or currently disadvantaged groups.2 The American approach involves directing benefits and opportunities toward individuals who belong to discrete, identifiable groups within society. This sort of targeting, in turn, presupposes that these groups constitute legitimate political categories and that those who fall into these categories are due special consideration.