'White' vs 'British'

Updated on February 1, 2020
Bushra Iqbal profile image

Thank you for stopping by! I am a Pakistani and a drama teacher. I run a drama club and I write because I must.

White or British?
White or British? | Source

Over the past several years, a number of Pakistanis have been convicted of abusing girls in Britain. This sparked off a debate as to whether the crimes committed by the men in question were racially motivated or not.

The Motive?

In the words of Nasir Afzal, former chief crown prosecutor for north-west England, the Pakistanis in question ‘were doing this horrible, terrible stuff, because of the fact that they are men.’

However, the judge in the Rochdale case, Gerald Clifton, told the perpetrators: ‘All of you treated [the victims] as though they were worthless and beyond respect. I believe one of the factors which led to that is that they were not of your community or religion.’

Referring to the Rochdale case, Assistant Chief Constable Steve Heywood of Greater Manchester Police said, ‘This is about adults preying on the vulnerability of young members of society.’

Baroness Warsi said that there ‘is a small minority of Pakistani men who believe that white girls are fair game.’

Eleanor Cockbain and Helen Brayley, academics at Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science at University College London, said there was no evidence that white girls were targeted by offenders: ‘Though the majority [of the victims] were white, so too were the majority of local inhabitants.’ (Incidentally, are these two scientists suggesting the abusers in question couldn't have kept their hands to themselves?)

Roger Scruton writes in a Forbes article in 2014 that the people of Rotherham know that 'Pakistani Muslims often do not treat white girls with the respect that they treat girls from their own community.'

But could it not be that most of the victims were white because the majority of the victims who came forward were white?

According to Prof. Alexis Jay, author of the official report on the sex abuse in Rotherham, there was a ‘deep-rooted problem of Pakistani-heritage perpetrators targeting young white girls.’

But, according to Sunny Hundal writing for LabourList ('Why Pakistanis should be as angry as everyone else with what happened in Rotherham', 2014), ‘The men preyed on these girls because they were weak or because they were physically or mentally intimidated, not because of the colour of their skin.’

So it goes, back and forth, back and forth.

British Laws: Racially Motivated Crime

In case you’re not familiar with British laws, let me fill you in on what’s going on there: in Britain, there is a law which says that you will be punished more severely for a ‘racially-aggravated crime’ than for the same crime committed without any racial aggravation.

When this law was made, the idea was that it would protect minorities from racism. However, minorities are also being found guilty of committing racially-aggravated crimes. This, of course, raises a new spectre: how do we know that members of minority groups are not being accused of racism because of racism?

What's the Difference?

To me, this debate seems unnecessary because there is no difference between the questions, ‘Did Pakistanis abuse British women?’ and ‘Did Pakistanis go out of their way to abuse British girls?’ The abusers were Pakistanis; their victims were British. Conclusion: Pakistanis abused British girls or, if you favor wordiness over pithiness, Pakistanis went out of their way to abuse British girls.

The Question at Hand

You may be thinking: that wasn’t the question, Bushra. The question was whether Pakistanis went out of their way to abuse white girls as opposed to, say, black girls.

But why was that the question?

If you look at any modern-day publication, you’ll see that where I’ve used 'Pakistani', you usually have 'Asian' or ' British Muslims' or 'British men of Pakistani heritage' or 'British-Asian' or 'Pakistani-heritage men' or 'British Pakistani' or 'Englishmen' or 'British'.

And, where I’ve used 'British', you usually have 'white British' or 'white Britons' or 'the indigenous British' or 'of white British heritage' or 'natives'. Last year, Sir Roger Moore invented 'English-English' to refer to, presumably, the English, and got into trouble with the Twitterati because of it. (He said Idris Elba wasn’t English-English enough to play James Bond. Idris Elba was born and bred in England, so he’s English.)

Usually, though, the word that's used where I've used 'British' in this article is 'white'.

White or British?

Take this headline from a 2012 MailOnline article by an Englishwoman, Jane Corbin:

‘Is this Britain’s first white honour killing victim? The happy but headstrong girl, 17, whose love across the racial divide had a tragic end.’

Laura Wilson was not an honor killing victim (she was killed by her Pakistani ex-boyfriend, and not by a male relative for having a boyfriend), but she was born and bred in England, just like Idris Elba. Yet Corbin refers to her as 'white' rather than 'English'. Why? I am genuinely curious.

Or take Andrew Gilligan’s ‘Are white girls really “easy meat”?’ (2011) for the Telegraph and Joseph Harker’s ‘This is how racism takes root’ (2012) for the Guardian. In either article, 'white' is used over ten times to refer to the British. On occasion, however, in the same articles, both writers use 'British' to refer to the British. Why not do so all the time since 'British' is precise while 'white' is not?

For example, at one point, Gilligan states that ‘a 2008 study by Malcolm Cowburn of Sheffield Hallam University found that jailed sex criminals from ethnic minorities were less likely to have abused children than white sex offenders.’ Who does he mean by 'white'—the British or people of European descent? That study may not even have included all of Britain—but how would you know?

White British?

Those of you who are British will probably be thinking that you have the right to a name that refers to your community: if someone can be 'British Bangladeshi', and someone else can be 'British Pakistani', why can’t you be 'white British'? No doubt you can. The thing is, if you need to tell other people that you’re 'white British', rather than British, how British are you?

All a Distraction

One thing, however, is clear: whoever it was that first raised the cry that Pakistanis were molesting 'white' girls, as opposed to British girls, successfully distracted attention from both what Pakistanis had done (abused British girls) and what the British hadn’t done (protected British girls).

Questions & Answers

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      • Bushra Iqbal profile imageAUTHOR

        Bushra Iqbal 

        13 days ago from Rabwah, Pakistan

        @Denise: Thank you!

      • PAINTDRIPS profile image

        Denise McGill 

        2 weeks ago from Fresno CA

        We have the same problem in the US and it is a racist problem/a problem of the heart. The moment you have to create a law to protect minorities, you can be assured that those it meant to protect will be marginalized by it. If only we could change hearts instead of changing laws, things would be much better all around.

        Blessings,

        Denise

      • Bushra Iqbal profile imageAUTHOR

        Bushra Iqbal 

        2 weeks ago from Rabwah, Pakistan

        @Kyler: Thank you very much!

      • Kyler J Falk profile image

        Kyler J Falk 

        2 weeks ago from Corona, CA

        I always love analyzing doublespeak, a pleasant read.

      • Bushra Iqbal profile imageAUTHOR

        Bushra Iqbal 

        2 weeks ago from Rabwah, Pakistan

        @John: Thank you!

      • Jodah profile image

        John Hansen 

        2 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

        An interesting article, Bushra. It does raise a few questions in regard to how the law stands. Thanks for sharing.

      • Bushra Iqbal profile imageAUTHOR

        Bushra Iqbal 

        2 weeks ago from Rabwah, Pakistan

        @Nikki: Thank you for your comment!

      • nikkikhan10 profile image

        Nikki Khan 

        2 weeks ago from London

        There is nothing wrong in using the word ' White British'. It differentiates between Asian and White. Here, in each department, we have to write Asian British. My point is trolls are out there in every society who deceit women and get away with it. I have seen many Asian individuals in London, who are living happily with their White or European partners and have children with them.

        You can't really blame nobody. And can't ignore the good ones just because of some rotten eggs.

      • Bushra Iqbal profile imageAUTHOR

        Bushra Iqbal 

        2 weeks ago from Rabwah, Pakistan

        @Michael: Thank you!

      • Michael Kabuni profile image

        Michael Kabuni 

        2 weeks ago from Papua New Guinea

        “This, of course, raises a new spectre: how do we know that members of minority groups are not being accused of racism because of racism?”

        That’s a good question.

      • Bushra Iqbal profile imageAUTHOR

        Bushra Iqbal 

        3 weeks ago from Rabwah, Pakistan

        @MG Singh: Thank you for reading my post and commenting on it and saying it's very well-written!

      • Bushra Iqbal profile imageAUTHOR

        Bushra Iqbal 

        3 weeks ago from Rabwah, Pakistan

        @Nikki: Thank you for reading my post and leaving a comment on it. My point is this: why use the word 'white' for the British? Why not use the word 'British' instead?

      • emge profile image

        MG Singh 

        3 weeks ago from Singapore

        I think a very well written article. In fact, it applies to most men from the sub-continent who have a feeling that White girls are easy to seduce. This is also because of a failure to assimilate with the local culture.

      • nikkikhan10 profile image

        Nikki Khan 

        3 weeks ago from London

        I don't understand the point you are trying to raise, Bushra.

        Women remain vistims of vitriol, not because of their nationality. And this would continue until they don't rise against the prejudice.

        Country of origin doesn't really count on.

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