If you, like me were looking forward to learning something really important, really ‘shocking’ and new from Trevor Phillip’s programme, “Things We Won’t Say About Race That Are True”, you may be feeling really let down and perhaps found it insulting that “poor and white is the new black”.
There was little new, if anything in the facts. We have ‘heard it all before’ and it keeps being said, out of context just like Trevor Phillips delivered it. No wonder he has been praised by people like Richard Littlejohn.
The best thing the documentary did was to raise the issue of race which seemed to have disappeared from the political agenda when the Commission For Racial Equality became the Equalities and Human Rights Commission under Trevor Phillips. We need a debate about race because structural inequalities remain prevalent.
As Trevor Phillips correctly pointed out, black people are 6 times more likely, (29 times in some areas), to be stopped and searched than white people, especially for drugs . However the fact that drug use is lower amongst Black people when compared to their white counterparts is rarely acknowledged .
The facts are the facts but some become a trope for those with right wing views and the media. For while on their own facts cannot be racist, their presentation can be skewed.
Most murders are committed by people who know the victim and most people live in their racial groups. Of course more black murder victims are killed by black people, a fact the programme highlighted without context.
The single story creates stereotypes and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue but they are incomplete. “They make one story become the only story” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
There is a danger in “ethnic profiling” which Trevor Phillips missed when making reference to cases such as Rotherham and Rochdale, that race or ‘Political Correctness’ becomes the scapegoat. According to the Jay Report into child exploitation in Rotherham, the police and council officers were widely felt to be playing down strong evidence of sexual abuse, mostly against girls, for fear of upsetting community relations.
Contrary to popular belief the victims were not only white girls. Girls and women of Pakistani heritage have also been targeted. The report raised the concern that “one of these myths was that only white girls are victims of sexual exploitation by Asian or Muslim males, as if these men only abuse outside of their own community, driven by hatred and contempt for white females. This belief flies in the face of evidence that shows that those who violate children are most likely to target those who are closest to them and most easily accessible.”
Rotherham and Rochdale are about the attitudes of some men towards women and children. They are about abuse, poverty and the abuse of power, just like the Jimmy Saville scandal and the investigation in child abuse in the establishment. This holds true in of the deaths of Victoria Climbié and Baby Peter, killed by the people who should have been caring and protecting them in the first place and let down by social services.
There is nothing wrong with ‘Political Correctness’ it is the practise of good manners. We must be wary of the shibboleths the programme presented for there are complexities behind many of these statements about race and stereotypes. The facts as extrapolated do not advance either the case of race relations or chid abuse.