Saturday, 8 January 2011

Jack Straw and racialising crime

I’ve been deliberately trying to avoid blogging for some time, as commitments in other regards needed to be given priority.

But some words have to be offered on Jack Straw’s recent comments that Pakistani men use ‘white girls’ as ‘easy meat’ for sexual exploitation.

I was genuinely dumb struck when reading the news story, further still when reading a chorus of supportive comments from different quarters. His full comments were: -

“Pakistanis, let's be clear, are not the only people who commit sexual offences, and overwhelmingly the sex offenders' wings of prisons are full of white sex offenders.

But there is a specific problem which involves Pakistani heritage men... who target vulnerable young white girls.

We need to get the Pakistani community to think much more clearly about why this is going on and to be more open about the problems that are leading to a number of Pakistani heritage men thinking it is OK to target white girls in this way.

These young men are in a western society, in any event, they act like any other young men, they're fizzing and popping with testosterone, they want some outlet for that, but Pakistani heritage girls are off-limits and they are expected to marry a Pakistani girl from Pakistan, typically.

So they then seek other avenues and they see these young women, white girls who are vulnerable, some of them in care... who they think are easy meat.

Because they're vulnerable they ply them with gifts, they give them drugs, and then of course they're trapped.”

Jack Straw is not alone in making comments indicating a racial and cultural source for sexual crime in the UK. David Davies, a Conservative MP in Wales stated early last year after a rape case involving young Asian men: -

“There do seem to be some people in some communities who don't respect women's rights at all, and who... without necessarily saying that this is the case on this occasion, who have imported into this country barbaric and medieval views about women.”

It is worrying that such views are so common amongst politicians.

Needless to say, both Jack Straw’s and David Davies’ comments reek of a subtle racism and xenophobia.

To begin, we see quite clearly in Jack Straw’s comments the repeated motif of the sexually aggressive and licentious non-white who seeks innocent and vulnerable white women.

This motif in Western and British culture is more common than perhaps is comfortable to admit, and speaks once again of Orientalism. One simply has to refer to 19th and 20th century British erotic literature, with black market bestsellers such as ‘The Lustful Turk’, ‘A Night in a Moorish Harem’ and ‘The Sheik’, all of which are fictional accounts of a sexually aggressive foreigner sexually abusing and raping an innocent white woman. Somehow this sordid literature had a receptive audience.

Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, there is an underlying process here of racialisation of the crimes committed by Asian offenders. By racialisation I refer to the process by which the crime is given cultural, religious and race-based motivations when they may in fact be absent.

When a white offender commits a crime, it is unlikely his cultural or racial background is referred to as a source for the crime. There are plenty of examples. Refer your mind back to any case with major media interest (there are so many cases involving white sexual offenders it seemed unnecessary to post examples).

The common discourse is that the offender is an individual, responsible for his crime, perhaps motivated by deep personal issues. Yet the community he may belong to, his racial background and similar factors are not seen as motivations.

With the crimes referred to above, in which the offenders are of an Asian background, the motivations for their crime are immediately attributed to race, cultural background and religion.

Jack Straw’s empty words that ‘Pakistanis… are not the only people who commit sexual offences’ are followed by statements that hold to account a whole ethnic community. His comments make it clear that the culture of the men are more to blame than the offenders themselves – and those Pakistanis who have not committed sexual offences have done so in spite of a culture that pushes them towards it.

David Davies’ comments are similar. Despite there being countless horrific sexual crimes committed by white, British born, offenders – he believes it is the ‘barbaric and medieval views about women’ from other countries that are to blame.

To address these crimes, it is necessary to ask ourselves the real questions.

What motivates men to commit sexual crime?

What factors expose young girls to sexual predators?

If we seek to answer these questions honestly, then I suspect the answers will be the same regardless of the race of offender or victim.

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