When describing a crime suspect, is mentioning his race being "racist"

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by glocke12, Mar 4, 2009.

  1. glocke12 macrumors 6502a

    glocke12

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    #1
    So one thing I have noticed with increasing frequency is that often times when describing a crime suspect, the news outlet often times does not mention a suspects race or skin color.

    Here is one example:

    "After exchanging some lighthearted banter, she agreed to the driver's offer. He had chiseled features, a low afro and wore a black polo shirt. He would now be in his late 40s to early 60s."

    http://news.aol.com/article/grim-sleeper-serial-killer/357528

    There are other examples, but this one gets the point across (even though it does mention the guy has an afro which indicates he is black, but we don't know that for certain). It seems to me that when describing a suspect, mentioning the suspects race would be of some help to the public.

    So, what does everyone think ? Is it racist or insensitive to mention the race of a crime suspect? To me it seems to just be Political Correctness overload.
     
  2. nbs2 macrumors 68030

    nbs2

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    #2
    I agree with you. There are some things that just make it easy to ID a person. Skin color, more than anything else, is probably the best. You can change your hair color and style, you can change your clothes, you can hide or change a tatoo. But hiding your skin color is near impossible.

    The two most important factors I can think of are skin color and height, since apparant age is subjective and you can add layers to increase apparant weight.
     
  3. és: macrumors 6502a

    és:

    #3
    By whom? These people that you hear not using race as an identifier?

    As far as I know it is full acceptable to describe somebody as a 'white (or whatever the skin colour the assailant might have) male, about 6' 2'' and is armed and dangerous'.

    I don't think you'll find anybody on this site that would suggests that a description of somebody is racism. Even if they do, they are wrong. The is a wrong and right answer here. It is not racism.
     
  4. glocke12 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    glocke12

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    #4
    Hi Es.

    Yes. Other than trying to be politcally correct, I can't think of any other reason for race or skin color not being used as an identifier if the information is available.
     
  5. és: macrumors 6502a

    és:

    #5
    Having never heard anybody shy away from using race as an identifier, and not really believing that it happens in places where it matters (by police etc.), I don't really have anything to say other than that it isn't/wouldn't be racist to factually describe a persons ethnicity.

    I don't think we should really be using an AOL Online article without some sort of disclaimer that this thing is probably quite rare. However, in those conditions then there is no reason not to use race.
     
  6. glocke12 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    glocke12

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    #6
    Its actually an AP article "By THOMAS WATKINS, AP".

    It also happens by police, and I suspect that the description in the AP article is as given by the police.
     
  7. mactastic macrumors 68040

    mactastic

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    #7
    Most of the time I do hear the race of the suspect described. "Hispanic male"; "white male", etc.

    You'll need more than just a single data point before I will believe that this is political correctness run amok.
     
  8. SLC Flyfishing Suspended

    SLC Flyfishing

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    #8
    This doesn't seem to happen as often as you might like to think Glocke12, though it certainly does happen.

    Here in Utah we have a huge population of illegal immigrants from Central America, and I do have to say that every time a criminal is described in the paper and race or ethnicity isn't mentioned, we have our usual idiots screaming "somebody has to do something about these illegal Mexicans", or "how much you wanna bet the guy was a Mexican" without even knowing anything about the assailants race. It's very annoying and I wouldn't hesitate to call that racism.

    But no, I don't think it's racist to describe an assailant by using his/her race simply as part of the description. It becomes racism when people assume a crime was committed because "he's a black man, or a mexican" or whatever.

    SLC
     
  9. és: macrumors 6502a

    és:

    #9
    It's still one example and certainly not a rule. If it is a rule, then I'll kick off about how utterly absurd it is. The meaning of racism isn't all that subjective.

    I'm not saying it doesn't happen, I'm just saying that there isn't really much of a case, in my opinion. If it's a policy, then there is a case.
     
  10. yojitani macrumors 68000

    yojitani

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    #10
    The problem with race identifiers when it comes to descriptions in the media is that they are not applied consistently. Of course, there's no problem describing someone's race, but it used to be the case (there was a big blow up in a local paper about this a few years ago here) that 'white' did not need to be described whereas 'black' 'hispanic' etc. did. Not describing the race is a cop-out in my opinion. Someone is afraid of exposing themselves.
     
  11. leekohler macrumors G5

    leekohler

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  12. Gelfin macrumors 68020

    Gelfin

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    #12
    Mentioning race in a descriptive or referential sense is never racist, of course. However, with regard to the specifics, I'm going to play devil's advocate for a moment.

    The "criminal" stereotype exists, and racists apply it liberally. Many people are sensitive to not wanting to come across as racist, and do not ordinarily want to reinforce racist stereotypes. Even when circumstantially accurate, those people notice that the circumstances tend to reinforce the stereotype. This makes them hesitant -- yes, even irrationally so -- to mention the race of an actual criminal suspect. You get people not wanting to tell a 911 dispatcher the race of someone who just committed a crime against them. On sober reflection they mostly realize how stupid that is, but it's reflexive.

    The human brain does odd things, but I'm not sure I would use that discomfort in support of a "ZOMG PC RUN AMOK" gripe. On the contrary, it's really the flip side of the same racism. Imagine being the hypothetically black 911 dispatcher trying to get a caller to tell you the race of a suspect and he just won't because he's afraid of how you'll react. How many times can you say, "no, sir, it's okay for you to tell me he was black" before that gets old?

    As far as reporting on the news, I would argue it's fine to avoid that so long as you're not providing a description to the public of a dangerous criminal on the loose in the community. If the suspect has been caught, of what relevance is his race? You would never see, "Mr. Smith, a 45-year-old caucasian male from Pacific Heights, embezzled approximately half a million dollars before he was caught." Nor would you expect to. At that point the crime is the news item; the demographic profile isn't.

    The specific snippet you quote sounds less like news reporting and more like narration. If you're telling a story, of course, describing the characters tends to be not only kosher but, one would imagine, generally encouraged.
     
  13. rhett7660 macrumors G4

    rhett7660

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    #13
    Agreed 100%. Nope not at all.
     
  14. JLatte macrumors 6502

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    San Diego
    #14

    It's way too politically correct. That's ridiculous, just from that description I could grab a white guy with an afro, a Jewish guy with an afro, or a black guy with an afro and chiseled facial features.
     
  15. BoyBach macrumors 68040

    BoyBach

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    #15
    Not only should they not be reporting the suspects race, but their sex (sexist), age (ageist), height (statureist), hair colour (depilationist), number of limbs (appendageist) and clothing (attireist) should also be treated with utmost sensitivity for fear of causing offence.
     
  16. Don't panic macrumors 603

    Don't panic

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    #16
    it's obvious from your post that you imply that the suspects are humans.

    a blatantly specist position.
     
  17. zap2 macrumors 604

    zap2

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    #17
    Well in the sense it brings up race, yes....but in a negative way? No...not at unless you use some negative term along with the race

    But if you say "black, white asian, hispanic, etc" no, thats just useful
     
  18. iJohnHenry macrumors P6

    iJohnHenry

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    #18
    Otherwise we should rip off all those "tape measures" at store doorways, the better to acquiesce to the vertically-challenged.

    We went through that for a few years too, but now we actually say what the suspect looked like. Just as we do his manner of dress.
     
  19. mactastic macrumors 68040

    mactastic

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    #19
    Rather sexist of you to assume the criminal will be a man... :eek::p;)
     
  20. MacUser2525 macrumors 68000

    MacUser2525

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    #20
    Well you would be hard pressed to find any time around here where the persons race is described anymore in the news report same as now it is always the "person is known to police" code to get around saying the person they are looking for has a criminal record and no its not racist to give the actual description of the one your looking for to answer the OPs question.
     
  21. iJohnHenry macrumors P6

    iJohnHenry

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    #21
    Well, a cross-dresser to be more accurate.

    But we can't go there either. :p
     
  22. hulugu macrumors 68000

    hulugu

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    #22
    What if the information is vague or suspect in some way? For instance, one witness could identify the assailant as Mexican and another insist that the assailant was Indian.

    Or, we get into the interesting problems of racial identification, what if I told you the person was Spanish? Would you imagine someone with blond hair or black hair?

    Race is an amorphous characteristic at times.
     

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