I’ve just watched Channel 4’s Things we won’t say about race that are true. Personally I found it rather a good program, bits I liked bits I didn’t always a good sign in a social documentary (and twitter seems to have had the same problem). Whilst I’m sure it had an agenda (well at least one depending on who you listen to) one the whole it seemed reasonably fair, by which I mean it probably pissed off everyone. Outside of the statistics it was interesting to see how Trevor Phillips views have changed and developed. To be trite the program could probably be summarised as saying that stereotypes are generally based on some degree of truth but we shouldn’t treat individuals based on stereotypes. Mind you of course that could just be confirmation bias talking.
Some people on twitter complained that they couldn’t workout what the message of the program was and who it was aimed at, which again I take as a good sign. As a walk through a variety of the “unspeakable” truths behind the stereotypes it did a decent job. I thought the point of it was to give an over view of many of those truths aimed at a variety of targets – those that won’t speak the truths and those that won’t let them be spoken. Of course it didn’t spend much type looking at why those stereotypes arose, but that wasn’t the purpose of the program and would require an entire series.
Twitter though as ever was a gold mine. As one commentator observed the mental gymnastics going on could have graced the Olympics. Forinstance every time I’ve claimed that Islam is a religion not a race I’ve been told otherwise yet this program was dismissed for calling Islam a race not a religion. I guess it must be a quantum thing where it’s both race and religion depending on what’s convenient. People also tried to make the argument that because academic papers have looked at some of the issues they were being talked about and so the program had no point. Given it was a program looking at statistical analysis and the big picture it was also amusing to see the number of attempts to refute them by appeal to anecdote.
If you didn’t watch it do catch it on catch up and do read the twitter feed it’s terribly amusing on the whole, especially watching as the trend veers from supporting the stereotype to dismissing it as an artifact of statistics depending on who’s subject to the stereotype. Again I view this as a sign that the program got it about right.
So for me and I hope many people the message seems to have been:
Stereotypes generally have some basis of fact, but don’t let that be an excuse for being lazy or being a dick.
Not talking about things and preventing people talking honestly about what they think and feel is probably a bad idea and can make matter worse.
The fear of being branded racist has real world impacts that aren’t good, as it prevents real problems being tackled.
Oh and birds of a feather really do flock together and that may not be a bad thing as long as it’s birds from other flocks are welcome.
Or Something like that at any rate watch it for yourself, it may be the first hint of the mainstream media starting to grasp the nettle of UKIP’s “surprise” popularity – though I as ever disagree with the idea that UKIP are a negative party. Oh and Mr. Blair hasn’t improved with age and the program has the worst hashtag ever.