But there's one taboo issue that officially colorblind France has been unable to confront: race.
The violence, like riots that spread nationwide for three weeks in exposed how parts of France have divided along color lines, with blacks and Arabs trapped in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods—like Villiers-le-Bel, in the northern suburbs of Paris, where gangs attacked police and burned cars and buildings this week.
Few residents condone the violence and many condemn it—but no one seems surprised that it broke out.
"Everyone is equal. That is what is written. But behind that is something else," said Hassan Ben M'Barek, spokesman for Suburbs Respect, a group that lobbies for those who live in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
In some such areas of the Paris region, "there are no white French people left in the streets. You can drive around for two or three hours and all you will see are North Africans and blacks. And these are neighborhoods with enormous problems," he added.