The level of depravity and abuse revealed by the Jay report into the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal has shocked the entire country.
The fact that 1,400 children have been abused has been lost on some as they rush to link the crimes of predatory men to ethnicity.
The case that these crimes were carried out by Pakistani men does not warrant the level of attention it has received in the press.
We do not judge other crimes by race. But we could try. If journalists and politicians were to talk about crimes based on race what would it sound like?
“Ten white straight men jailed over North Yorkshire girl’s sex exploitation” is one headline a twitter user sent me. Are white people more inclined towards acts of mass murder – like murdering Native Americans; bombing Iraq, Afghanistan, Hiroshima, Nagasaki; slavery and colonialism? White people carry out the majority of sexual attacks committed against animals in this country. Is it something in white culture? Can I hear white community leaders condemning such acts? In fact, let’s hear from the highest ranking white community leader in this country, David Cameron, and have him explain and apologise for these actions carried out by white people.
Ridiculous isn’t it? No more ridiculous than repeated attempts to suggest that there is something inherent in Pakistani identity that would drive men from that background to commit sexual crimes against children.
However, there is a more fundamental issue underlying this entire debate about ethnicity. There is a longstanding assumption in the West that white people are somehow perfect – and that any crime committed by a white person therefore must be a deviation from that perfection. The crime is certainly never seen as a reflection on the race as a whole.
But when members of an ethnic minority commit crimes, it is seen as symbolic, something that reflects the imperfection of their race – an inherent flaw of their race and culture, or at the very least of their failure to adopt “Western culture” or “British values”.
This thinking, whether conscious or unconscious, runs throughout society and its institutions. But you rarely notice it unless you are on the receiving end.
When Anders Behring Breivik murdered 77 people in Norway we saw no long discussions about how his race or culture might be responsible for his crimes and precious little discussion of what role his fascist political beliefs might have played. Instead he was treated as an anomaly and his mental state called into question. God forbid that we embark on a deep analysis of the racism in society perpetuated by the media, institutions and culture. Let’s just blame this one individual that acted all alone.
Another example of a projection of white supremacy can be seen in the education system. When a Black child does well at school, he or she is presented as exceeding expectations – expectations that are determined by white assessment of black intelligence. When they do not do so well, it is seen as a reflection of their race. It fits with what was expected.
Contrast the situation with white children. When they do badly at school, they are seen as failing to achieve their potential (implicitly, their potential as a member of the white race). It is not seen as a reflection on white people as a whole, but again as an anomaly, or a reflection of that one individual. And of course, a discourse of class is also usually absent from all these discussions and analyses.
The discourse over ethnicity and race over the last week has revealed how the majority group, the white power structure, views minorities. The media reporting displays not just elitist thinking, but also how ideas of white supremacy infect the minds of those living in the West.
We even find ethnic minority voices parroting the same language and adopting the same paradigms, accepting the notion that we should view this issue through the prism of ethnicity, and of course, the white media is only too happy to promote those voices at the expense of those who would offer a more critical perspective.
Many of us have internalised the racist elite narrative after years of “education” and mental colonisation.
The fundamental problem is that by making this issue about Asians, Pakistanis or Muslims, the discussion is taken away from the actual victims. It also ignores or marginalises the non-white victims of these predatory criminals.
The victims are usually children at the very bottom of the social pyramid that are report abuse and are systematically ignored by the police and authorities. According to the NSPCC, many of Jimmy Savile’s victims were ignored or laughed at when they revealed that they had been abused. Specifically in the case of Rotherham, police treated the victims with disregard and spent a lot of time trying to disprove or disparage their stories of abuse. This is simply unacceptable – we need to thoroughly transform the culture of how victims are treated to ensure that their abusers are brought to book.
We should, as a society, be working together to target predatory men and protect our vulnerable from abusers and those who protected and enabled them. Let’s not forget how the authorities failed these children and blamed the victims. That’s the real issue, not ethnicity.