Guest Post: It doesn’t make it all right
Posted on November 21, 2011
This is a guest post by Polly
I have, as of yesterday, an ex friend. And as with all exes, friends or otherwise, I am currently doing that thing where you mentally punch yourself round the head going “WTF did I EVER see in you?” Although the punched in the head feeling may be to do with the quintuple vodka that accompanied my extended rant to some other (still current, rant notwithstanding, patience-of-saint-like) friends about why I was SO ANGRY.
Anyways, the EF is a postgrad student, and the source of the exness (potted version) is that she thinks I just don’t understand why Ghanaian people (or more specifically a group of Ghanaian men living in England) are homophobic, and I should really really try to because it’s not because they’re Stupid and Evil, it’s just that with my “white western gay” persepective, I just don’t get it. Too fucking right I don’t.
The problems with the EFs ‘argument’ seem glaringly obvious to my simple, non academentia’d brain. Firstly, last time I looked, she is a white western straight woman from a privileged background and has no more of a mysterious insight into the black African perspective than I have. Secondly for a supposed academic, she is ignoring the basic fact that hello, somewhat inconveniently, there ARE gay and lesbian black Africans. Yes – even in Ghana. Though they’re not having a particularly great time. Pity they didn’t get the memo about black African = homophobic straight person…..
As a white western lesbian (I’m not gay, I’m not miserable, I’m angry) it is a simple fact that 99.9999% (recurring) of the homophobia I have been on the receiving end of has come from white western people. I therefore have zero tolerance for those who want to tell me that I should be specially bothered about muslims, because they’re all homophobic, or that all black Africans are homophobic, because – you know what – it just ain’t true in my experience. And even if it were – it’s the homophobia that ‘s the problem, not the religion or the race of the person practicing it. Being murdered, raped or beaten up for being lesbian/gay doesn’t get any better or worse depending on who’s doing it or how they justify it to themselves – (though if we’re doing requests, I do wish common or garden homophobes would get some original lines, at least it would be something NEW). Homophobia is as homophobia does.
It’s undeniably true that I’m in a better position in England than I would be in Ghana, since even Nadine Dorries has yet to suggest that I should be rounded up, arrested and eradicated, but it’s not an excuse for casual racism. Though it may only be a matter of time anyway. Maybe the home office will give the evangelical Christian stormtroopers funding, and Dave and Nick will pop round to check the elimination camps conform to big society standards.
There is -oh the sweet, sweet irony, – a humungous amount of racism at work in the white liberal fallacy that a human rights abuse is different when black people do it because Hey! That’s their culture! You just threw everyone who’s on the receiving end of “it” (who is almost inevitably also black) under the bus with that one. But what does it matter? You know they’re just NOT LIKE US, saith the white liberal intellectual. Black African lesbians being raped and killed? That’s just their culture, chill the fuck out.
You can take your moral relativism and make it the subject of a PhD if you like. You can argue that the end justifies the means, and we should turn a blind eye to rape by those who otherwise you know – have some really sound political views. You can say that the fact you’re gay and Anjem Choudhary is an objectionable fool means we should look askance at anyone who looks as though they might be one of them there muslims because – aren’t they all the same? But it doesn’t make it all right. It’s the worst excuse in the world, and it doesn’t make it all right.
Thanks Cath, BTW, I can spell ‘perspective’, twas a typo (red mist).
I didn’t even notice it Polly. There goes my (non existent) career as a copy editor/proof reader 😦
I completely agree with what you’re saying here, but I do have one question/thing that’s been niggling me for a while, and that’s about the fairly recent cases of the grooming and sexual exploitation of young women in cities ooop North.
I’ve seen journalists being villified for pointing out that these recent cases involved gangs of mainly young Asian men, and said journos being accused of trying to perpetuate Islamophobia/racism etc. Now I can accept that point if the writers concerned were trying to argue that gangs of young Asian men were convcited of grooming young girls for sexual exploitation therefore all young Asian men were potential pimps and so on, but apart from the Daily Fail and the Express (no surprises there) that’s not the message I was getting from reading these articles. I just got the impression they were trying to say “look, there’s a pattern emerging here that might bear further investigation so we can understand what’s going on and try to address the problem.”
I’d be interested in your thoughts on this, as I’m genuinely conflicted. I think we always need to be conscious of people’s hidden agendas/ulterior motives for taking a specific stance, but I also think we shouldn’t ignore patterns of behaviour out of fear of being accused of racism or whatever by cultural relativists.
My thoughts are this. What is the point of mentioning it?
If we assume for the sake of argument that this is a fact, say – for the sake of argument – 70% of those who are doing the grooming are Asian, then where does that take us?
Does it help us to identify potential groomers, or victims of abuse? Does it help us to prevent abuse in any way? Will having this information help anyone who thinks a young person they know may be being groomed?
There is certainly a matter for concern if say – as I know has been alleged by some commentators – that abuse is being covered up because the perpetrators are from a certain minority group. And this HAS HAPPENED in the past. Namely the Islington children homes scandal. Where if you identified yourself as a ‘gay man’, no checks were carried out on you. And a number of paedophiles (please note – not the same as gay men) were able to take advantage of this with some fairly horrific results. And I remember hearing people on the ‘left’. DEFENDING this at the time.
However we then wouldn’t get anywhere EITHER by saying either that all abusers are adult males abusing boys, and that group should be the subject of suspicion.
If we say ‘most of those involved in child grooming are Asian’ does that then mean that we ignore potential non asian abusers? Or that we think all Asians are potential abusers, or automatically treat (perfectly innocent) Asians with suspicion? It doesn’t take us anywhere, because it’s the behaviour we need to be targeting.
A pattern of behaviour is only of some help if it helps us stop abuse. And being Asian isn’t a pattern of behaviour, it’s an ethnicity. Unless 100% of Asians are abusers, and 100% of abusers are Asian.
Jack Straw (inevitably) made some ludicrous remark about how grooming happened because young asian men were ‘fizzing with testosterone’, and obviously then had to abuse young white women because it wasn’t culturally appropriate for them to get sex from young women of their own race. Which is the biggest sack of race apologist shit I’ve ever heard.
Rape apologist, not race apologist
Incidentally, were I still speaking to the EF (I’m beginning to feel like Liz Jones now), I might send her links to some of the very many blogs/sites which tackle the cultural imperialism inherent in white people “analysing” the problem of hom0phobia in Africa. (which I hope it’s not clear I’m trying to do here, just pointing out that its victims are also African, its not just a matter of white people having their noses put out of joint) But I’m not so she can educate herself. She’s been at university long enough FFS. If the kind of muddled thinking, and ludicrous over simplification, she is currently displaying are an example of what years at uni do for you, there’s an argument for putting the fees up to 50 million a year and closing them all down IMHO.(sorry still bitter, how do I get a gig on the Fail?)
I think to get a gig on the Fail you first have to start caring how fat/thin/pregnant/post pregnant/pre pregnant/old/young/middle aged/fresh faced/wrinkled/cosmetically enhanced/in need of cosmetic enhancement/married/single/partnered/loved up/gay/straight/bi/fashionable/unfashionable/prone to sartorial faux pas/* female celebrities are.
*this is by no means an exhaustive list.
Yes you forgot the pressing problem of aged celebrity knee, which I think has had quite a few outings. Not to mention the time they ran a story about Cheryl Cole PHONING THE COUNCIL ABOUT THE BINS.
Re the trafficking gangs – I remember reading an article in the Birmingham Mail (not a publication particularly noted for it’s pc-ness) by a local senior police officer regarding the arrest of an Asian gang in relation to this. And, (despite also not being from a force known for pc-ness) he was very clear that the ethnic makeup of such gangs are, according to police estimates, entirely dependent upon the ethnicity of the area they are working in and the primary ethnicity of the people they are targeting.
Which makes me think perhaps said journos were getting hammered because they were chasing after an incorrect theory, not because of pc-ness.
There’s an interesting piece (posted on the Channel 4 site following the screening of Dispatches: Britain’s Sex Gangs), by Alyas Karmani, the director of STREET (Strategy to Reach Educate and Empower Teenagers):
Here’s the link.
So I think where I’m probably coming from is that having watched the Dispatches programme about this and seeing how, having named it as a problem, groups within the community have then been able to work with young Pakistani Muslim men to raise awareness of the issue and to challenge attitudes etc, I believe there actually has been some benefit to mentioning it.
Having said that, there doesn’t seem to have been any work initiated among other communities to address the same thing. So in Southern cities for example, where trafficking gangs are mainly white, I’ve seen no evidence of groups like STREET doing similar work.
So basically I’m back to square one. I’m torn on this one.
What work is being initiated in white communities to stop sexual abuse?
Because there’s a lot of it about in my experience, and most isn’t even reported.
This is where we need to question ourselves. Abuse isn’t better or worse because it is committed by Pakistani muslim men. And we risk falling into what I would like to dub the ‘straw fallacy’ if we assume the abuse is due to some characteristic unique to Pakistani Muslim men, as opposed to some characteristic of abusers. Would we accept a programme targeted at, for example, white middle class men if they proved to be a majority of abusers? Or gay men? (nb I’m not saying either of these groups are disproportionately abusers, just e.g’s). Are we targeting Catholic priests with these education programmes? Or private schools?
I’d also like to raise the possibility that far from abuse by Pakistani muslim men being ignored, it’s the only type that’s being actively followed up. I can think of numerous examples from my youth where underage girls were ‘groomed’. Nobody batted an eyelid, the perpetrators were all white.
Repeating what you said Cath, but bears repeating.
The common link all these male perpetrators have is they are male and male supremacy (last time I checked) claims men have the innate right of sexual access to any female irrespective of age, race or sex. So problem is male supremacy and how men learn as boys their pseudo right to commit male sexual violence against women. Remember those Catholic Priests committing sexual violence against women, girls and boys are male and yet sex of perpetrators continues to be ignored. Why?
Because it ensures white male supremacy can make the false claim ‘it isn’t white men committing these crimes it is those non-white males and look white men are far superior and more moral than those non-white males.’
Plus what does our male supremacist popular culture promote with regards to continued male dehumanisation of women and girls? Why that a woman’s/girl’s sole value and worth is in sexually servicing men and no those men who commit sexual crimes against girls are not paedophies they are child rapists and predominantly normal respectable men. But male supremacy knows claiming only ‘paedophiles’ commit sexual violence and rape girls and to a lesser extent boys ensures the real issue which is men and male supremacy’s promotion of male domination over women continues to be ignored. Paedophile is a creation of male supremacy used to maintain mythical differences between normal ‘respectable men’ and supposedly a tiny number of deviant men. But is it not odd increasing numbers of ‘respectable men’ are seeing girls as ‘suitable sexual prey’ and no these men are not paedophiles but merely enacting male supremacy logic because women and girls are supposedly – men’s disposable sexual service stations.
Oh speaking of the Fail…
Despite the fact that further down the page they are forced to admit one gang is in fact white.
I’ve been peeking behind the Times paywall tonight Polly, they’ve got a series of pieces up now about this.
Here’s part of one from today from Andrew Norfolk entitled “The fear of causing offence has allowed abuse to become almost endemic”
I’m sorry Cath, but you TOOK OUT A SUBCRIPTION TO THE TIMES? (nb only joking, I buy it sometimes because I love Caitlin Moran).
49% of known sex offenders are Asian. So 51% aren’t. So to spot a sex offender is really easy. You just look for a human being who may or may not be asian.
I have no problems with ‘educating’ sex offenders as long as you lock them up afterwards. Sorry this is gross bullshit. The real problem here is the set of girls who are being abused. Who aren’t girls from nice loving middle class homes on the whole, they’re from areas with grinding poverty and often in care. Girls from middle class homes get abused as well of course, but no one notices. But because the perpetrators are Asian and because the victims are white, suddenly everyone is concerned. Not concerned enough, you not, to ask WTF we are doing failing children in care like that, or children from poor communities, but concerned enough to resort to racism as an excuse.
One reason this problem is so hard to tackle is because the girls who are the victims won’t give evidence. Sometimes because they’re been intimidated, but often because they think the men in question are their “boyfriends” ie the only people who’ve ever shown them what they see as affection.
But anyway, I am old. Tales from my childhood. A girl at my school was pregnant SIX times before the age of 16. No action was taken. A local man was widely known to prey on girls from the school. No action was taken (about 20 years later I saw he’d finally been convicted.)Plenty of my classmates were having sex under the age of 16 in circumstances that were ostensibly ‘consenting’ but frequently with older men. Oh and currently a friend of mine who is a teacher at a very exclusive public school assures me teachers ofen have sex with pupils. I note the Times man doesn’t tell us how white communities should deal with their groomers.
nb the above comment is not intended as victim blaming, so I shouldn’t have said ‘the real problem is the set of girls who are being abused’. The point is that no one seems to give a shit about them before they’re abused, and only seems to give a shit afterwards if the perpetrators aren’t white. At least some muslims seem to give a shit.
though white British, Kurdish, Afghan, Bangladeshi and African Caribbean groups have all been linked with group CSE crimes, most identified networks IN THE NORTH have involved British Pakistanis. Of course, most British Pakistanis are not in a CSE network.
My emphasis. You can ‘prove’ anything if you narrow your subset of data enough. What about networks which are not in the North?
The fact is that if you want to spot abusers, the best way to do it is to keep a wary eye on their potential victims. And make sure there is support for them so that they can report abuse. Which isn’t being done currently.
And I think (as per FDs comment) that if you looked at the communities where the abuse is taking place you would find they are communities with multiple deprivation and also communities with a high Asian population. Hence the correlation. It’s the poverty that’s the problem, not ethnic make up.
I think there’s some Govt plan being released today about all this. From what I was reading last night the fact that many girls won’t give evidence is going to be got around by the police prosecuting anyway, whether the girls want them to or not….
Well how are they going to get the evidence then? If you want to prosecute someone for a criminal offence, you need evidence that it has taken place. And unless there is some kind of forensic evidence (eg pregnancy) that’s going to be hard to get. I bet the lawyers are rubbing their hands right now, thinking of all the potential actions for damages. I can also think of nothing more abusive than dragging a reluctant under 16 year old victim before a court to give evidence. Which is presumably what will happen.
From the Times again:
And here’s the bit I was talking about upthread:
I still think they are missing the point by a distance approximately the width of the galaxy. Why are these particular girls/young women being abused and then declining to co-operate? That’s the point where they need to start.
I caught a bit of a report on the new strategey on Radio 5 this morning, and yet again one guest was going on about ‘Pakistani muslims’. As though they were the only people who ever abused children. What I would really like to have asked that man (he was very effectively challenged by Nicky Campbell btw) is if he thinks we should only pursue pakistani muslims. And if the answer is ‘no’ (it it’s “yes”, he’s a straight out idiot) I would then ask him why he’s so bothered about Pakistani muslims in particular. We need to pursue potential/alleged abusers. If some of them happen to be pakistani muslims, we shouldn’t shy away from it. But we can’t victimise an entire religious/ethnic group on the actions of a minority.
Free access to university helped me to drag myself up from an economically poor and physically/ sexually abusive childhood in Dead End Shit Street. It taught me self-confidence, critical thinking, and gave me the tools to build myself a better life than my mum had had. It also enabled me to understand her situation, stop blaming her, and help her as much as I can from my position of relative privilege.
Please don’t even joke about it being ok to put up University fees. Please. It’s not ok.
Whilst I don’t doubt what you’re saying Jo, I don’t necessarily think it’s a universal experience. I have, as it happens, been to University before outrageous fees were introduced, and I’m not really sure it gave me much more than a piece of paper and the ability to argue on Cath’s blog about law with a better knowledge of law than I otherwise would have had. I work in a job where a degree is not required. I also have a better life than my mum had, but I think that’s much more to do with the struggles of political activists for people from working class backgrounds (said activists tend to be people from working class backgrounds)than having a degree. And also my own general cussedness, because I was put under as much pressure to get married and have kids as most women of my age were. And I’m afraid I reserve the right to criticise University education, and academia generally when it leads people to spout what is patent bollocks – in this particular case this person is being funded by the taxpayer to the tune of £13,000 tax free a year to come up with this crap – I’m sure a few jobless 16 year old school leavers could be helped by that. I was joking about the tuition fees however, which would just entrench the class system even more firmly.
But I don’t see access to university as a means of empowerment, it is a means of entrenching privilege. If that privilege is based on academic ability rather than money, it’s still privilege – fact is that when University was ‘free’ a very small proportion of the population went. We need to struggle for the many, not the few. Being able to escape an abusive background shouldn’t depend on having the right A levels. Most of the girls and young women we’re discussing above aren’t doing well at school and that’s one reason that no one gives a shit about them being abused.