The Lessons of Rotherham

A week or more has gone by, and we haven’t written about the Rotherham rape scandal that has rocked Great Britain. Rotherham is a city of around 250,000 in Yorkshire, where at least 1,400 girls were raped, and in many instances prostituted, by gangs consisting mostly or entirely of Pakistani men. It seems to be generally acknowledged that the local authorities had a good idea what was going on, but the criminal rings nevertheless flourished for something like 16 years.

Current publicity about the Rotherham scandal is driven by publication of the Jay Report, officially titled “Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham (1997 – 2013).” You can download the report here. It includes details that are not for the faint of heart.

One aspect of the Jay Report that has received attention is its suggestion that worries about race played a role in local officials’ reluctance to do anything about the rape/prostitution gangs for fear of being thought “racist.” Here are some excerpts:

By far the majority of perpetrators were described as “Asian” by victims, yet throughout the entire period, councillors did not engage directly with the Pakistani-heritage community to discuss how best they could jointly address the issue. Some councillors seemed to think it was a one-off problem, which they hoped would go away. Several staff described their nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought racist; others remembered clear direction from their managers not to do so. …

Within the Council, we found no evidence of children’s social care staff being influenced by concerns about the ethnic origins of suspected perpetrators when dealing with individual child protection cases, including C[hild] S[exual] E[xploitation]. In the broader organisational context, however, there was a widespread perception that messages conveyed by some senior people in the Council and also the Police, were to “downplay” the ethnic dimensions of CSE. Unsurprisingly, frontline staff appeared to be confused as to what they were supposed to say and do and what would be interpreted as “racist”. …

Frontline staff did not report personal experience of attempts to influence their practice or decision making because of ethnic issues. Those who had involvement in CSE were acutely aware of these issues and recalled a general nervousness in the earlier years about discussing them, for fear of being thought racist.

Several councillors interviewed believed that by opening up these issues they could be “giving oxygen” to racist perspectives that might in turn attract extremist political groups and threaten community cohesion.

Were 1,400 girls the victims of political correctness? Viewing the Jay Report as a whole, I conclude that they were primarily victimized by bureaucratic sloth and indifference–here’s a great idea, let’s put our lives in the hands of government agencies!–but it does seem that nonsense about “racism” played a part.

A radical suggestion: maybe it’s time to retire the whole apparatus of racism. “Racism” is a concept that originated in the 20th century and never gained currency outside a few Western countries, like the U.S. and Great Britain. Denunciation of racism had a specific social and political purpose, which, many would argue, has now been served. Does the constant invocation of “racism,” usually in situations that have nothing to do with race, now do more harm than good? That is, at least, a question worth debating.

While Rotherham is a huge scandal in the U.K., we are not the only ones who let the week go by without commenting on it. So did the New York Times. Yesterday, the Times finally took up the story in an article titled “Years of Rape and ‘Utter Contempt’ in Britain: Life in an English Town Where Abuse of Young Girls Flourished”. The Times did acknowledge that “[t]he victims identified in the report were all white, while the perpetrators were mostly of Pakistani heritage.” But it tried to fit the story into the mold of sexism:

Some officers and local officials told the investigation that they did not act for fear of being accused of racism. But Ms. Jay said that for years there was an undeniable culture of institutional sexism. Her investigation heard that police referred to victims as “tarts” and to the girls’ abuse as a “lifestyle choice.”

In the minutes of a meeting about a girl who had been raped by five men, a police detective refused to put her into the sexual abuse category, saying he knew she had been “100 percent consensual.” She was 12.

Several Althouse commenters make interesting observations on the Times’ perspective. Balfegor says:

NYT struggling mightily to move this out of the uncomfortable “anti-racism led to willful blindness” narrative and into the comfortable “sexism led to willful blindness” narrative. Always important for a paper like the NYT to comfort the comfortable, and reassure them that their prejudices and preconceptions are all 100% okay.

Jason adds:

“Lie back and think of diversity.” #liberaltipstodealwithrape

Sadly, it seems that such thinking played a part in the appalling exploitation of 1,400 children. It seems likely, however, that neither the New York Times nor any other liberal news outlet will learn from the Rotherham tragedy.

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