• Alex Dingwall

Media Campaigns Off Target

In the last week we have seen anti-racist organisations in Scotland voice concern over the decision by Crimestoppers to use the image of a Black man, hand cuffed and pinned to the ground, to highlight its work in tackling drug dealers with stories appearing in the Herald, Scotsman and Independent.

Organisations have rightly been quick to point out that members of the black and minority ethnic communities are far more likely to be the victims of crime in Scotland than perpetrators.

Amongst those where the ethnic group was known and able to be provided:

  • 97% of Criminal Justice Social Work Reports submitted in 2011-12 related to offenders who were White.

  • 98% of Community Payback Orders in 2011-12 related to offenders who were White.

  • 95% of Community Service Orders in 2011-12 related to offenders who were White.

  • 97% of Probation Orders in 2011-12 related to offenders who were White

The State of the Nation Report on Criminal Justice by the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights looked at the available data (June 2011) and of 8106 prisoners in custody only 108 were Black.

Crimestoppers have responded by saying that “This is a national campaign and as such the posters created will be placed across the UK. A number of the crimes we deal with may be more prevalent in one area than another and the perpetrator and victims of such will again be different from one town or city to another.”

But shouldn’t all organizations carefully consider the danger of stereotyping minorities? And shouldn’t an organization which has received over £200,000 of Scottish Government funding be better informed on the Scottish situation? Research from the British Film Institute in 2011 found that 53% of survey respondents thought that ‘Black characters are too often portrayed as drug dealers in films’. When looking at Black respondents only, that percentage jumps up to 80%, showing what a serious issue this is for Black communities.

This poster comes as the UK Government has also faced condemnation over its anti-immigration poster campaigns which proclaim the message “Go Home or Face Arrest”.

The posters have been sharply criticized by former Government Minister Sarah Teather who said: "This is the latest in a string of Home Office announcements that are designed to make the government look tough on immigration. But I fear that the only impact of this deeply divisive form of politics will be to create tension and mistrust to anyone who looks and sounds foreign. These adverts are nothing less than straightforward intimidation and can only have bad consequences for communities where people from all faiths and races have mixed for decades. We will all be much poorer for it.’

These Government and voluntary agency campaigns are in danger of further promoting negative stereotypes which fuel mistrust of BME communities whilst also increasing a sense of isolation. The Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) state that “Marketers should be aware of the potential to cause serious or widespread offence when referring to different races, cultures, nationalities or ethnic groups”. We hope all sectors consider that guidance when considering any ad campaigns.

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