Sunday, June 21, 2009

Anti-terror and racial balance

So presumably, people have heard the hilarious news that police are stopping and searching white people under anti-terror laws so as to 'balance' racial statistics. Now, I have to say that this does confirm some of the anecdotal evidence I have heard from various people. What I find very interesting is Lord Carlile's response to this. Whilst he is obviously right to say that this is frivolous, bad etc., I find his particular reponse to be very telling:
"I have evidence of cases where the person stopped is so obviously far from any known terrorism profile that, realistically, there is not the slightest possibility of him/her being a terrorist, and no other feature to justify the stop."
And what does he mean by 'any known terrorism' profile? Well, of course it is Islamic extremism, thus Carlile opines:
If, for example, 50 blonde women are stopped who fall nowhere near any intelligence-led terrorism profile, it's a gross invasion of the civil liberties of those 50 blonde women.
(So interestingly this is another bit of evidence as to how much the war on terror stuff is massively racialised - since one need not be brown to be a Muslim). But, for those of us not priveleged with being white being stopped and searched is perfectly fine and indeed does not seem to 'invade' our 'civil liberties' at all:

"The police are perfectly entitled to stop people who fall within a terrorism profile even if it creates a racial imbalance, as long as it is not racist."

What else could be racist in this context? In terms of institutions there can be no other definition of racism. And in terms of individual stops and searches, what possible way is there to judge whether a specific search is racist or not, given that all such searches are apparently prima facie valid? Indeed, the reports abound with such ridiculous ideas, perhaps most amusing is:

Former British diplomat Sir Edward Clay told BBC Radio 4's The World Tonight programme he was subjected to a stop and search five weeks ago while on his way to work at the National School of Government, near Victoria Station in central London.

He said he had found the experience "sinister" and "intimidating". He told the programme: "I'm 63, I'm a grey-to-brown-haired white male, I'm 5ft 10 ins tall, looking extremely conventional."

Or, to translate 'but I'm white!'.

I seem to have gone off on a bit of an unstructured rant here. But I think this links quite interestingly to something I said a while ago about liberty, security, Marx and race. Essentially, I noted that in human rights rhetoric (and often its delpoyment) there is a dialectic between liberty and security. Liberty is the ultimate goal, but some people use this liberty to undermine liberty, so this means that we have to bring in 'security', which means:
This amounts to saying: the right to liberty ceases to be a right as soon as it comes into conflict with political life, whereas in theory political life is no more than the guarantee of the rights of man – the rights of the individual man – and should, therefore, be suspended as soon as it comes into contradiction with its end, these rights of man.
But I noted that in practice this isn't some kind of irresolvable dilemma. The deprivation of liberty is always focused on some particular - often racial, often political - group. The above illustrates this really rather well. The fact that a blonde woman being searched must be a violation of her civil liberties, whereas a black man being searched just because he is black (and so fits the profile) apparently can't have his civil liberties violated shows us the way in which this dialectic plays out.

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