Against a background of violent riots across America following the decision of a US Grand Jury not to press charges against a white officer who shot dead unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in August, the French minister sent three tweets, two of them in English.
“Michael Brown, racial profiling, social exclusion, territorial segregation, cultural relegation, weapons, fear, fatal cocktail” she tweeted in French
“Kill them before they grow?” she asked in a tweet in English, using a line from Bob Marley’s song “I shot the Sheriff”.
Continuing in English she wrote “Trayvon Martin, 17 years old, killed in February 2012 in Florida by an armed man who deemed him ‘suspect’ and Tamir Rice, a 12 year old teenager who was killed by a policeman at the weekend in Cleveland Ohio, while he was playing with a toy gun.”
“How old next? 12 months?" she asked on twitter.
Later on France Info radio station the minister expanded on her comments.
« I will not make value judgements on the institutions of the United States but when the sense of frustration is that strong, that deep, that long-lasting and that huge, there is reason to question whether people trust these institutions”.
“You realise that somehow it only happens to the same people: Afro-American kids. Certain clichés still persist, certain prejudices which can create terrible reflexes”, she continued.
Mayor of Nice and former minister Christian Estrosi of the right wing UMP party condemned Taubira’s decision to comment.
“Mme Taubira, even though she doesn’t even know what happened last night in the United States and has no information on the matter, considers it appropriate to judge the American justice system. What kind of world are we living in? I am ashamed for my country to have a Justice Minister like Mme Taubira”, he said.
Christiane Taubira has herself had to deal with some particularly offensive racism in France.
She says she regularly receives hate-mail because of her colour and some of the most widely publicised recent incidents of racism towards her have led to convictions.
However on a political level, many on the right of French politics dislike her stance on crime and punishment. They maintain she is soft on crime and is more concerned for the perpetrators than for the victims of criminal acts.