Monday, December 04, 2006

Media (not) for All? Society (not) for All?
A recent report was made on the success of a media training charity in Deptford called `Media for All’, and how it was set up to help troubled Black youngsters. While the story focused on the organisation’s aim to help Black people gain a foothold into media, the charity’s website itself makes no reference at all to Blacks in particular. This contradiction actually offers an accurate portrayal of the race issue in Britain today: That age-old phenomenon of good intent undone by confusion of direction.

Originally titled `Offering help to Black youngsters’, this story notched up fourteen (at the time of writing) responses online – a hot issue for sure. Posters were highly critical that special emphasis was being made for Blacks. One poster was even Black himself and felt such separatism caused ill feeling. This prompted the newsroom to change the title to `Offering help to youngsters in media’ although the rest of the article was left intact. One of the reasons cited for the emphasis on Blacks in the story, and which is indeed common in other related areas, was that there was an under-representation of Blacks in media. Therefore to solve this supposed problem, special measures were (and some may say, are still) needed to increase the participation of Blacks. So an awkward link has been made between population diversity and population activity. Forget that the origins of each of these two areas are as different from each other as can be; it’s the end result that counts. A recipe for disaster beckons as social engineers start to flirt with positive discrimination that can yield resentment (not unlike seen in the angry replies to the media charity story) and it raises a justified concern whether Blacks are in fact patronised with preferential treatment. Society cannot have it both ways: It is impossible to reconcile the aim of a racially neutral world by emphasising racial differences. True diversity is where labels are always in deference to value in the pursuit of integration. Overtime, the sum of the parts becomes more valuable than the parts themselves. This is not the same as making those parts redundant – taking even a small fuse out of an electrical appliance would affect the entire machine. Unfortunately, this view would upset certain people who dwell on the past and seek to keep race very much on the agenda. And it also is at odds with those obsessed with multi-culturalism, a devious social plaything that gives age-old divisiveness a contemporary feel.

It seems to me that we can gain guidance on the best way forward by studying a man who personally lived through and fought extreme prejudice: Dr. Martin Luther King Junior. In his 1964 book `Why we can’t wait’, Dr. King referred to the American Wagner Act of the 1930s that helped support U.S. trade unions to organise in the teeth of State opposition to organised labour. He also felt that similar targeted help was needed for Blacks in the 1960s to overcome racial prejudice in opportunity. But Dr. King was talking in a different time from today: The same book also described job automation as a peril, causing a collapse of manual labour which was, in Dr. King’s words, “an intolerable situation”. But the other thing we can learn from Dr. King is his recognition of not just how to start a crusade but how to close it as well. In 1965, he told members of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee that one had to consider how to end a campaign as well as how to commence it. Such an approach was not one of weakness but measured and flexible strength. It gave more open-minded opposition parties a chance to concede without losing face while isolating the extremists. This was a far more effective approach than endless fighting that would have been hard to sustain, create increasingly hard-line factions that would give support to extremists and possibly escalate into a far worse environment. Roll on forty years, and we seem paralysed in what to do about racism in Britain today. Many people are unable to distinguish multi-culturalism as being different from multi-racialism. The first is a matter of choice and the other is an act of nature. Defend the freedom to choose, but do not impose the choice while protect against the discrimination of that which no one has control over. There is nothing wrong with an unequal society as long as there is equal opportunity. And how about imposing timelines like Dr. King advocated? Is it beyond our ability to aim for a date where the need to racially profile ourselves in questionnaires can be phased out? Would such a demise be more acceptable if support was given to use undercover operatives to unearth acts of racism in the provision of goods, services and employment, and, as well as name and shame the guilty, praise the colour-blind? This country can’t afford to support well meaning - but badly defined - initiatives with flawed and dated solutions. And it can’t continue without end either.

9 comments:

Snafu said...

Right leaning media commentators also seem to be few and far between but I don't recall any initiatives to correct this oversight!

Jens Winton said...

We're either deemed to be spawn of the devil or too rich to warrant help! I am neither but I guess I shouldn't hold my breath for a hand out, should I?

Jimmy said...

Jen,
When black pupils are three times as likely to be excluded from school due to "systematic racial discrimination", there is a need for some schemes to help young Black people.

I agree with a need for integrated options for all young people, but in some parts of London Black youth have a significant problem getting the opportunities that everybody else gets.

Fix the school system first, then criticize this type of scheme for being too exclusive.

Jens Winton said...

There is no need for preferential treatment for Black youth in schools. If there is evidence of racism, be it institutional or individual, then tackle those that exhibit it. I note that the Government does not want to embrace the term `institutional racism' for fear of raising offence. What a lily-livered response!

The best thing the Government can do is to let the schools be free to pursue their own discipline methodology - that is why the faith schools do well, regardless of the religion. There are unbreakable rules in such schools that concentrate the minds of both teachers and pupils. This causes a mutually rewarding teaching and learning experience for all.

That is the solution.

Jimmy said...

Surely faith based schools prove that segregated teaching (whether by race, religion, gender, class) is what leads to good results.

I would have thought that if you support segregated schooling based on religion you could also support segregated teaching based on race - the two really are not so different as children have no choice over either their religion or their race.

Personally I have issues with any form of segregation for children, but if the reason is to tackle the institutional racism that the government allows to continue, then we should support the efforts made for these pupils who are routinely discriminated against in every part of society.

Jens Winton said...

Jimmy,

This is distorted analysis. Faith schools do not base their success on segregation just because they cater to a select community alone. They succeed because they foster a strong code of ethics and discipline and this is found time and time again, regardless of the faith involved.

In America, the concept of separate but equal in schools - where Blacks and Whites were allowed to be schooled apart was ruled unconstitutional in the 1950s. But it also gave rise to a two-tier education system that worked against Blacks. This was not unlike what happened in Apartheid South Africa. Is this what you want for British education?

And what would it spell for the future? Increasing isolationism that will make today's concerns over multi-culturalism a mere trifle.

If Blacks are discriminated against then go for the discriminator, not the discriminated otherwise you may twice make them a victim. And that is the worst form of patronage you could mete out.

Anonymous said...

this subject gets me angry. our children should not be separated due to colour neither should they have special groups only to help one race. we all have to live together so people should get along and deal with it. equal opportunities.... good idea but doesnt happen.

Jens Winton said...

And I would go as far as to say that unequal opportunities are directly influenced by the culture of making colour an issue, even when the intentions are peaceful.

That is why I have a problem with Black History Month. By all means attack racist versions of the past but don't invert it and show a so-called positive image of the past based on colour. And worst of all, don't make it an annual event. That is patronising and can be counter-productive: This will only come across to some people as positive discrimination and serve to inflame, not diffuse, prejudices some people have. Which will only prolong abhorrent attitudes in the creation of opportunity in society.

There have been many approaches to settling historical myths that have perpetuated over the years. Some times it takes a series of books or documentaries to expose sham research. Peer review can enhance or destroy these attempts to revisit the past. And then that's it. They stand up as new references until they can be re-challenged.

It's not necessary to keep on and on about the same matter year-in, year-out otherwise it loses its gravitas and takes a peculiar life form of its own. It becomes bigger than the problem it was trying to address and by being forced into the public eye, unintentionally paints its core group as perpetual victims.

Bob Marley once said he would one day like to see that a colour of a man's skin was of no more significance than the colour of his eyes. I agree. It would be one less thing to think about and over time, cease to be an issue of any description. And also be one less thing to dog the issue of unequal opportunity.

Paul said...

Jens

you have a problem with Black History Month? Then why not ignore it? Get over yourself! I have a problem with UKIP (the phrase house-trained racists has been used, though I wouldn't presume to aim it at you personally) but I cope by ignoring them. You should try it - it's quite liberating and saves a lot of energy.