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Author Topic: Is it racist if it's true?
Snafu
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The following two news reports have caught my eye over the last couple of days:

This story claims police have been circulating a 'racist' email. It contains a video clip of a black man falling onto railings and decapitating himself. 'Look what happens when you run from police' appears at the end of the video. Not nice, but could someone please explain to me how it's racist? I'm at a complete loss.

And this article tells of a MP basically saying that 'more criminals are black than white'. Apparently it's a 'statistical fact'. I know these kinds of comments aren't helpful in the least when it comes to race relations, but why are they racist, if they are, in fact, true?

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put it in writing
Xboxing Day


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Well, with the second example: why are a higher percentage of black people arrested than white people? What role does institutional racism play into that?

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and it's 1 - 2 - 3, what are we fighting for? don't ask me, I don't give a damn

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BringTheNoise
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The first is racist because it implies that because he is black, he must be running away from the police, suggesting that all black people are criminals, which, as I'm sure I don't need to say round here, isn't true.

The second point is more contentious. He may be correct pro rata, but to imply that there are OUTRIGHT MORE black criminals than white criminalsm would require a vast amount of criminal activity within the black community in Britain, and again perpuatuates the "black = criminal" stereotype.

ETA: And, as put it in writing noted, there are many factors that come into play when it comes to crime statistics.

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Cold DecEmbra Brings The Sleet
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There's a thread on the first one doing the rounds here.

As for the second issue, the question is whether more black people than white people commit crimes in the UK. Frankly, given the relatively small percentage of the population who are black, I would doubt that the MP's statement is true.

quote:
He was asked: "Are you saying that a lot more criminals are black than white - or that there are more black people in jail than white because they are stopped more often?"

Mr Spink then reportedly replied: "The former, and that's what people don't seem to like. But I didn't enter a beauty contest when I became an MP!!!!"

He may have meant that a higher proportion of the black population than the white population is in prison, but that is not what he actually said. Even if it's what he meant, it's still relevant to ask whether there's a higher stop and search, or conviction rate for black people, and whether this might be based in racism.

I don't think this story supports an argument for a statement "not being racist because it's true".

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I want you to lay down your life, Perkins. We need a futile gesture at this stage. It will raise the whole tone of the war.

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Cold DecEmbra Brings The Sleet
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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quote:
BringTheNoise said:
The first is racist because it implies that because he is black, he must be running away from the police, suggesting that all black people are criminals, which, as I'm sure I don't need to say round here, isn't true.

I know I've already pointed to the other thread, but I don't think you can say that the video is racist just because it shows a black person in the role of the criminal. The point of the video being circulated is surely more likely to be to provide gross-out entertainment than to provide some kind of "proof" by implication that black people are criminals.

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I want you to lay down your life, Perkins. We need a futile gesture at this stage. It will raise the whole tone of the war.

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Richard W
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There's a thread about the first story here - seems that none of us really get the racist angle. The only thing I could think of was that the "powers that be" believed that it wouldn't have been so widely circulated if the decapitated man was white, because the death would have been taken more seriously.

In the second case, though:

quote:
A Tory MP who seemed to suggest that "more criminals are black than white", today strongly denied that he is racist.

...

He was asked: "Are you saying that a lot more criminals are black than white - or that there are more black people in jail than white because they are stopped more often?"

Mr Spink then reportedly replied: "The former, and that's what people don't seem to like. But I didn't enter a beauty contest when I became an MP!!!!"

I don't think he can use the "But it's true!" defence there, because frankly it's not true. Here's part of the more exact reply:

quote:
[The Home Secretary, who Spink claims to have been quoting] "told the House of Commons that, pro rata, many more young black men are known to the criminal justice system than young white men. That is simply a statistical fact."
I don't think he knows what pro rata means - in this context it means proportionately more young black men are known to the criminal justice system than young white men.

He appears to have mis-stated this as an absolute, and when asked whether this could be caused by young black men getting more attention from the police, he states (without evidence, and apparently also thinking that it's a "statistical fact") that this isn't the reason - the reason is simply that more of them are criminals.

So in the second case, I do see how he can be accused of racism.

(edit) Thoroughly spanked by Embra.

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trollface
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Without going into the specifics of either case presented here, there's also the issue of what you call "truth". I mean, let's say that I own a shop. If I tell you that it's been broken in to 6 times by black youths in the last year and it's true, does that make the statement racist? Well, that depends. If, in addition to the 6 break-ins mentioned, there were 12 instances of it being broken in to by white youths then my excluding this information does make the statement racist, despite the fact that it's true.

This can manifest in lots of ways. There was a case recently, in connection to the Katrina incident, where almost identical pictures of people carrying food from shops were labelled differently in the media. The white people were "survivors" who had "found food", wheras the black people were "criminals" who were "looting". Both statements were true, but they would have been equally true, had the captions been reversed.

There were also accusations (I didn't see enough coverage to say whether this was accurate or not, but I have seen enough of this kind of thing to fully believe it is) that a disproportionate number of stories about hopeful survivors focused on white families, wheras the stories of criminal activities focused on, and featured footage of, black people.

All of that may be true, but it would still be racist.

[Edited to add]Here is a page highlighting the "looted"/"found" difference.

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seriously , everyone on here , just trys to give someone crap about something they do !! , its shitting me to tears.

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NZUL
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Trollface, snopes already covers those pictures. They're not "equally true, had the captions been reversed". The black people looted, the white ones did not. The photographers in question observed each subject's source of the food they were photographed with.

http://www.snopes.com/katrina/photos/looters.asp

That does make it, however, a good example for the "is it racist if it's true" question. Both statements were true to those pictures only. Not true if you swap them. But it presents a racist impression when you compare them. They are true - are they racist?

Personally I think any factually correct statement that is not misleading from other facts cannot be considered racist.

The criminal example is a tricky one, always has been, and probably manifests itself in every country. Here in NZ we have seen it before, with "are there more Maori in prison?" as the question. I think that it's not necessary to take into consideration *why* a certain ethnic minority might be over-represented in a statistic. If they are, they are. Why they are is certainly an interesting question, but doesn't change the fact that currently, factually, they are.

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Richard W
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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quote:
Originally posted by NZUL:
Trollface, snopes already covers those pictures. They're not "equally true, had the captions been reversed". The black people looted, the white ones did not. The photographers in question observed each subject's source of the food they were photographed with.

http://www.snopes.com/katrina/photos/looters.asp

I don't really think that's an adequate explanation - it says that the black guy went into the shop to get the groceries that he had, whereas the white couple "found" them floating just outside the shop. But it seems a pretty trivial difference in circumstances to me - did the white couple not realise that the groceries had floated out of the grocery store they were next to? Where did they think that they'd come from? Was the black man supposed to wait until things had "floated out" of the shop too? Was he supposed to leave some money floating next to the till? The write-up says he had groceries - food - not electronics.

Sure, there are style differences and different writers so you can't say whether the same photographers would have captioned each other's pictures the same or differently. But to say that it's true that the black guy was "looting" whereas the white couple merely "found" their food, when the circumstances are as given, does seem rather un-justifiable to me.

(edit) And actually, the guy who wrote the "found" caption says he didn't see where the white couple got their stuff - but since there were groceries floating around he assumed they'd just picked them up from outside the shop.

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Kahuna Burger
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quote:
Originally posted by Richard W:
quote:
Originally posted by NZUL:
Trollface, snopes already covers those pictures. They're not "equally true, had the captions been reversed". The black people looted, the white ones did not. The photographers in question observed each subject's source of the food they were photographed with.

http://www.snopes.com/katrina/photos/looters.asp

I don't really think that's an adequate explanation...
I found the Snope "debunking" of the complaint rather uninspiring as well. At the very most they demonstrated that the differing captions did not represent an attempt by the same news service to deliberately spin the pictures. Not that the differing captions weren't biased by the race of the individuals and not that they were merely accurate deptictions of the events.

"hopes there isn't a Snopes Infalibility doctrine she will run afoul of" KB

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Canuckistan
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KB, you do realize that the pictures in that link were taken and distributed by different news agencies, right? Which is why the claims of racism can't really be proven or disproven in this particular case. It is comparing apples and oranges here.

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Kahuna Burger
I Saw Three Shipments


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quote:
Originally posted by Canuckistan:
KB, you do realize that the pictures in that link were taken and distributed by different news agencies, right?

which is why I said they had disproved the assertion that they were attempts on the part of the same news agency to spin the pictures deliberately.... I'm not sure why you are asking about this detail.
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Canuckistan
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Because it sounded like you thought the pictures were coming from the same agency. Never mind, then.

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People need to stop appropriating Jesus as their reason for behaving badly. It's so irritating. (Avril)

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Richard W
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Snopes's page isn't trying to "debunk" the complaint - the claim is simply that the two photos appeared with the captions shown, and it's marked "True".

I don't think snopes was taking a stand on the racial angle. The article is neutral on that - it just quotes what the various photographers and agencies said about it, and says that it's difficult to draw conclusions.

I meant that I thought it was wrong for you (edit - sorry, not you, Kahuna Burger - NZUL) to say that one guy (the specific person in the picture, in fact, not "the black people" because there's only one) was looting and the white people did "find" the food. The snopes page doesn't really back up that interpretation, to me.

It's a pretty fine definition that makes one of those "looting" and the other "not looting". The point is that the captions were written by different people who may well have been using different definitions. If the person who captioned the photo of the black man had seen the white couple, he might have said they were looting too. We don't know.

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