Racial “labelling”


February 1, 2006 11:30 AM

An interesting op-ed piece about the use of race “labels” by the NSW police force, particularly the term “Middle Eastern appearance” in the context of the Cronulla riots in December of last year.

From Disservice to paint race relations with labels – Opinion – smh.com.au:

It is a myth that avoiding labels is all about pandering to ethnic groups and political correctness, and subverting the truth. Rather, this is all about factual correctness. How can people from more than 20 different countries, from West Africa to West Asia, from Morocco to Medina, share a homogenous physical appearance? Can police seriously be expected to discern between a Syrian, a Cypriot, a Maltese and a Brazilian?

I have similar misgivings about the term “Asian” especially when applied to criminal gangs. Asia is the world’s most culturally-diverse continent, stretching from South-East Asia to Russia, to the Indian sub-continent and to the Middle-East. Yet, the term as used in Australia is usually a euphemism for yellow-skinned Asians.

Racial identification is appropriate if the race of the perpetrator is central to the crime but not anytime else. Even then, you have to be careful about generalising or being too vague. The author above makes these points a bit more eloquently than I do here.

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