Some residents of the hurricane-ravaged French territory on the island of St.Martin are claiming that white tourists have been given more importance during evacuations.
The anger over the alleged discrimination adds more fuel to the already tense racial tensions that have long affected the far-flung colonies of France especially its Caribbean territories. Most of the population there identifies as black, and they also happen to be poorer than the white minority.
There have been accusations that white tourists became the priority during boat evacuations to Guadeloupe. Although, it is common practice for governments for tourists to be evacuated first in disaster areas for practical purposes since presumably they have fewer resources and access to services than the locals such as food and vehicles. The French prime minister insisted on Monday that the government is only prioritizing the most vulnerable.
Some residents are alleging that boat evacuations on Friday gave priority to tourists including Americans, while claiming that St.Martin residents including needy mothers and children were left behind.
The island of St. Martin has 80,000 residents. The population is also a vibrant ethnic mix descended mainly from Africa, Europe and Asia. The white minority there is generally believed to be wealthier than the black majority, even as there are no statistics that will establish how much wealthier are the whites compared to the blacks. France bans the collection of data related to race.
Even the broadcast media are being accused of racial bias in the wake of the storm, along with the government rescue response. French researcher Michel Giraud claims that the French television reports on the destruction “focused disproportionately on white people.”