Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Am I a racist?

OK, so, there's a story in the news here right now about a young girl - she was only 15 at the time - who was raped by four young men, 3-4 years older than her, here in Oslo almost two years ago. Our courts work ridiculously slowly, so the case has only come to trial now. The guys hit her and pulled her hair, threatened to beat her and called her a whore, then forced her to go down on all four of them in a shed. What's almost worst - I mean, obviously the girl's experiences were the worst, but this is the part that really breaks my heart - is that her mother actually heard part of the assault as it happened. :-o Her mother called her on her cell phone, completely by coincidence, while it was going on, and somehow the cover on the phone got pushed up so that the call was connected. So the mother had to sit there and listen to her daughter screaming and crying and shouting No! No, please!! and who knows what sounds the guys were making. I'm sure she understood what was going on. Has anyone seen that movie, Eye for an Eye? It's basically the opening scene of that movie, in real life. I can't even imagine how this woman must have felt when she realized what was happening to her child ... and there was nothing on earth she could possibly do to stop it. :-(

Anyway ... back to my question. Am I a racist? Because hearing about this case - just seeing the headline was enough - my immediate thought was that whoever did that were immigrants. In fact, it's wrong to even call it a thought. It's my first instinct. The idea is just in my head fully formed as soon as I hear the basic facts of the case. Gang rape in Oslo = it must be immigrants. The first real thought I guess is who would call me a racist because of my reaction?

Now, granted, I don't know much about this case. I only know what I've read in the paper ... there's an article here. So I'm just assuming something right off the cuff, just making random assumptions based on pretty much nothing. Right? Oh, I'm such an awful racist. Aren't I?

Has everyone heard about Norway Cup? It's the biggest football tournament for children and young people in the world (when I say football, I of course mean European, aka real, football ;-) and it's held every summer here in Oslo. It usually goes pretty smoothly ... everyone's happy to be playing and there's very little violence and things like that. But this summer there was a fracas, one team made a lot of trouble. They were disqualified - they didn't have their papers in order, a whole bunch of paperwork that they had ignored, whataver - and they started fights after that. My question came up then too. I thought about writing this blog post then, but I didn't get around to it. (Quel surprise. :-) I was going to write it though ... because as soon as I heard about that story too - football team creates fights & trouble at Norway Cup - that same instinct kicked in, and the same thought, or whatever, came into my head - Oh, those guys must be immigrants.

And then we're back to my initial question - am I a racist? I think a lot of people would call me one ... because if that's my instinctive reaction, I must just dislike immigrants. Mustn't I? But then, in the Norway Cup story, more information came to light, and guess what ... they were immigrants. It was a team made up entirely of immigrants. So what does that make me?

I don't consider myself a racist. I like to think that I give people the benefit of the doubt and judge each individual on his or her merits. But I am willing to bet a lot of money that these four guys in the rape case are all immigrants. Not one ethnic Norwegian in the bunch. And I'll go further. I'm also willing to bet money that they are members of a particular group of immigrants - Muslim immigrants. I'd bet a lot of money on that.

Now, am I a racist, or where do you figure this comes from?


Mads said...

I had the same thought upon learning that about 42% (i think that was the figure) of people on death row in the USA are black, whereas they only make up about 13% of the population. But of course being an immigrant and being black is not the same thing, even in Norway.

For Norway the statistics seem to show that non-western immgrants are about twice as likely to commit crimes as the general population. SSB has a report on this, which can be found here:

(see for instance p. 35)

Of course there are very few non-westerners compared to norwegians, so it shouldn't make a very significant difference, but there might be a bias towards non-western immigrants, particularily in the media, that reinforces the sense that they are doing most of the violent crimes, which they in reality are not.

Leisha Camden said...

You're right, being an immigrant in Norway and being a black American is absolutely nowhere near the same thing.

Anyway. You make some good points. I know about statistics and so on. But then again, there's violent crime and there's violent crime, right? If we hear about a woman being raped, then the perp could be anyone. Pretty much anyone. But you know what, I've never heard of anyone being gang raped by ethnic Norwegians. (Gang in this case meaning three or more assailants.) I've never heard of that happening. Have you?

The thing is that with certain types of crime you can usually guess who's behind it. Someone embezzled money from his employer? Ethnic Norwegian nine times out of ten ... at least. Gang rape? Immigrants. The paradox I'm trying to get at in my post is that a lot of people would probably consider me a racist because I have gut instincts like these ... and racism is definitely a problem ...
but when it turns out that I'm right, then where does the problem lie?

Thanks for commenting, I really appreciate your input! :-)

Mads said...

You're right that it sometimes seems as if you can guess in advance which crimes were done by immigrants, but my only source for that kind of anecdotal information comes from the media, so even if it were right that I could guess it most of the time, I still won't know if it's representative of anything. They have a tendency towards not telling when things are done by ethnic norwegians.

I also thought the same as you when I heard of the Norway Cup incident, but I already knew that there are a lot of African teams in the tournament, so there was a quite high statistical probability for it being one of them as well. Besides -- they weren't immigrants, only black. That being said there are probably a lot of better examples to find.

Anyway, it still is not racist to feel that most violent/sexual crimes are committed by immigrants. But it is absurd, though. When you look at the numbers, there is no single type of crime that is mostly done by immigrants. About gang rapes, I can't really remember hearing about that many of them done by anyone lately, although a couple of horrible cases done by duos of ethnic norwegians spring to mind. But perhaps that's just it. Maybe the impression comes from the fact that the media have a higher threshold when it comes to reporting violent/sexual crimes done between ethnic norwegians, I don't know.

Paz said...

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably seems absofuckinglutely obvious what it is, but because someone might be offended you cant say it.
Its racist to say that Irish like a drink, Asians are good at maths and engineering, Women are hopeless reading maps, Men can't multitask and Galway men make fantastic lovers the overwhelming evidence seems to say yes, but you can't say it, its either racist or sexist.

Paz said...

BTW I am not saying that immigrants are rapists. I do know that in western societies, women are more likely to be raped by someone known to them.
I just wanted to highlight that anything has the potential to be racist and often the truth is racist.

Leisha Camden said...

Mads: re the Norway Cup incident, I never seriously considered that the team in question could be a visiting team from abroad. Those teams don't make trouble like that. I was sure from the first that it was a team that was 'from here' on some level. If that makes sense. :-)

Statistically speaking it was likely to be one of the African teams, but I never thought that it was. And sure enough ...

Does the media really have a tendency of concealing the ethnicity of Norwegians? I don't think so ... they'll mention it when the perp was an immigrant of whatever generation, so if they don't mention anything about the ethnicity, it's very often safe to assume that it was a Norwegian. :-)

'There is no single type of crime that is mostly done by immigrants' ... hmm. My cousin quit his job because it was making him a racist. He worked undercover for the drugs division at Oslo PD. He said that it made him a racist in his heart, although he still wasn't a racist in his head ... intellectually he knew that the vast majority of immigrants are lawabiding citizens who read the paper after dinner and help their kids with their homework, but his problem was that he never saw any of that. He saw the world of drugs. And according to him, it was all immigrants. Nary a Norwegian to be seen. So he started to get so many negative thoughts and feelings about certain groups ... he ended up quitting that job because he felt it was messing him up too much. So based on my admittedly limited inside information, I'll say that drugs trafficking and sales are crimes mostly committed by immigrants. I think statistics back me up on that, actually.

I'm sure you're aware of the scary number the Oslo police published ... this spring, was it? Every reported 'assault rape' for the past 3 years were committed by immigrants. So then the standard defense is that most rapes aren't of the assault type, they're committed in people's homes and so on ... but if you're the sort of person who'll rape someone in public, you'll obviously have a much lower threshold when it comes to raping people behind closed doors as well. So ... you do the math.

The number in the last paragraph makes a lot of people, or I may say women, sceptical of immigrants. But, like Paz says, that's something you can't really talk about because that makes you a racist. Reality bites. :-(

Leisha Camden said...

Paz: Yes, women are more likely to be raped by someone know to them. That's definitely the case. But immigrant women are raped too ... at least as much as ethnically Norwegian women. We don't hear as much about it because they have less access to the community than Norwegians do. But statistically speaking it must be happening. I really don't like the numbers I get when I add these things up.

If everything is potentially racist, and we can't say things that are true because that is also racist, then won't we come to a point where the whole concept of racism will lose its meaning ... ?

Paz said...

IMO political correctness makes us afraid to speak the truth sometimes, a lot of truth's can be taken as prejudiced or racist.
Me I will happily admit to being a bigot ;)

Paz said...

Forgot this lunacy, its too funny IMO. The BNP in England were told they have to accept ethnic members, “This exclusion is contrary to the Race Relations Act which the party is legally obliged to comply with. The Commission therefore thinks that the BNP may have acted, and be acting, illegally.”
They have a timeframe to provide a written undertaking to the Equality and Human Rights Commission

Shiva said...

Evolution has formed your brain to think that way ;)

Paz said...

one exception is those moron creationists, god made their brain the way it is ;P

Mads said...

When you look at the statistics just for Oslo, I agree -- there actually are crimes which were committed a couple of more times by immigrants: for instance robbery/blackmail and customs-related offenses. Rape goes under the same label as other violent crimes, so you can't really make much of that from my numbers.

I think this has more to do with fear and xenophobia than racism. People are for example usually only worried about men, and particularily groups of men. If they're non-western-looking and hanging out on a street corner at night, that's even worse.

But I still can't see that there's any reason for regular norwegians to fear being raped by immigrants, because non-westerners also mostly tend to be the victims, so I don't think the odds have changed that much. There might be newer statistics, though, and I know Oslo is special.

Leisha Camden said...

lol @ the BNP!! What's the problem exactly - that they have no non-white members or that they don't allow them? If the first: What will happen if they can't find anyone of the right ethnicities who are willing to join the party?? Will they be penalized?? :-D Political correctness gone amok ... !!

The thing is that even if the truth hurts, it's still the truth. It's dangerous for our societies if the truth becomes suppressed.

Shiva, yes, evolution has made xenophobes of us all. I don't think that that is automatically a bad thing. It is a problem here in Norway though that genuine debate on the problems that immigration does lead to is so skewed and malfunctioning, because people are afraid of being labelled as racists.

Every single random stranger on the street who has ever called me a whore has been an immigrant from the Middle/Near East or Africa. I can't complain about that, though, without some groups jumping on it as evidence of racism. But when an African calls me a Norwegian whore, isn't that racism just as much? I'd say so. Yet we're not debating that. I think that's the main problem. Anti-racism, at least in Norway, empties the term 'racism' of its meaning and destroys the debate.

Paz said...

IMO the problem is that some immigrants do not try to adopt any customs of their host, many of them barely follow the laws.
I won't start on why they might be calling you whore, what the hell do you wear going around town ;P

Suleman said...

I'd like to Add one thing tho, Islam has nothing to do with all these rapes. Those who commit are to be punished severely under the islamic law. Clearly, those who commit it does not have any regard of the law, or fear of God for that matter. I am not sure if we could really attribute their herrounds acts to Islam or a special attribute of them being Muslims. However, we can't say it but they're not Muslims when they do this (since they're not following Islam anyway).

Suleman said...

I meant, horrendous acts, :P .. not herrounds, my notepad doesn't have a spell checker. :P

Leisha Camden said...

Paz: I think I wear pretty normal clothes, but even if I was dressed incredibly provocatively, that's actually even more to the point: It's no one else's business what I choose to wear, and whatever clothes I have on it doesn't give anyone the right to call me names. Obviously I know that you agree with that, I'm just saying it.

I agree with your assessment that certain immigrant insist on sticking to their own customs to a much too high degree. I've seen some immigrants in Sweden on TV recently who really deserve a kick in the teeth and a one-way ticket back to whatever rock they crawled out from under. And another example: An imam here in Norway who was interviewed by a major newspaper and had to have an interpreter with him - he'd lived here for something like 24 years. o_O And he had the fucking nerve to say that he 'wished he was able to speak Norwegian better'. >:-( Almost the worst part was that the journalist didn't call him on this blatant lie. I mean, seriously: If you've lived in Norway for 20+ years, you *don't* 'wish you could speak Norwegian better', because if you did then you would actually speak it better. That guy was a piece of shit liar and that was what the article ought to have been about, not his opinion on whatever. >:-(

Leisha Camden said...

Suleman: Thanks for your comments, I really appreciate your input. I hope you won't be offended by the following - I don't mean to offend you or anyone else, it's just my honest opinion.

I've heard this argument that you bring up many times - mostly from Muslims, but also from others, for instance Christian apologists when on the subject of the murder of doctors at abortion clinics and the like. It always goes like this: Rape or terrorism or whatever has nothing to do with Islam, those people aren't Muslims; the murder of George Tiller has nothing to do with Christianity, that guy who did that wasn't a Christian; etc, etc. It's very much a standard issue argument.

I think that that argument is a copout, and a dangerous one at that. What it does - and presumably is designed to do - is to deflect criticism from the religion itself, as well as the 'holy' texts, in order to kill discussion of the negative aspects of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, etc (it doesn't necessarily have to be religions that are involved, this argument 'works' for many ideologies) - negative aspects which are indisputably present. Just ask George Tiller. But the believers won't get into that discussion, and simply dismiss it with this sleight of hand. As I say, a copout.

I'm going to have to write a blog post on this, I think, because it is an issue that IMO is very important.

Again, I mean no offense to anyone by saying this.

Oh, and I did figure that you probably meant to say 'horrendous'. Typing fast can be tricky. ;-)

Paz said...

Was teasing hence the ";P" I never comment on what what women wear, as a matter of fact as I keep telling Mrs Paz when asked about a particular outfit I keep saying that nothing looks good on women ;).