The blog’s pet gadfly/troll made a confused point in response to this post. He suggested using measures of violence as a way of testing whether racism had been a factor in the Brexit vote rather than just directly observing what had occurred on the campaign:
I propose an external reality check: violence! Look and see what group or set of groups is doing the majority of violence out there in England, Scotland and Wales, and against who. If its white people randomly attacking non-white people, then I think your accusation of racism has some merit.
It was not a well thought out remark. Aside from anything else he had just finished claiming that only “double blind” studies could really show anything. Also, it ignores all the other reasons why there might be violent crime. While we can’t conduct a controlled experiment (either practically or ethically) any such examination needs to make some degree of control by looking at the relevant crime.
The right kind of study to conduct would be to look at how violent crime at groups being targetted by racist rhetoric is changing either in quantity or in kind or in severity. While not conclusive, that allows a degree of like-for-like comparison.
This is where the comment, perhaps made flippantly, touches on a tragic element of the campaign. Organisations and the police have been collecting data on such changes. One such organisation was due to have a report on rises in such attacks discussed in parliament by a person who had a long history of work in refugee rights. Sadly and appallingly the person was Jo Cox – the British MP murdered during the course of the campaign.
She was planning to address parliament later this month to introduce a report she had been working on with the Islamophobia watchdog Tell Mama (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks), the group’s director said. The study is expected to conclude that there were about 80% more attacks on Muslims in Britain in 2015 than the year before.
“She met us to talk about how people could report attacks; particularly women in her constituency,” said the founder and director of Tell Mama, Fiyaz Mughal, on Sunday.
The report is the latest in an annual series on the prevalence of Islamophobic attacks. “We were hoping she would highlight the impact on Muslim women; particularly given the targeting [that exists],” Mughal said. “The majority [of incidents] at street level were [on] women and she was going to raise that.”
He added that the study was based on data from his organisation and three police forces.
Mughal expects to conclude that Tell Mama saw 1,100 Islamophobic attacks in 2015 – an 80% increase on the previous year. The three forces reported a further 1,200, from which the watchdog had extrapolated to give a national estimate, he added. Mughal also said many attacks are never reported.
So possibly if we use increases in violent attacks on groups targetted by racist rhetoric as a measure we do see an increase – I don’t think the report is published yet. Was there such an increase during the campaign itself? That is also too early tell.
Now one thing that is notable in terms of reported cases of verbal and physical abuse of Muslims outside of the internet is the other side of who is attack whom. By the ‘other side’ I mean another factor in the disparity in violence which the comment alluded to. I’ll quote it again “Look and see what group or set of groups is doing the majority of violence out there in England, Scotland and Wales, and against who.”
In the case of data collected on Muslims, it is notable that Muslim *WOMEN* are more likely to be targetted and the perpetrators are more likely to be *MEN*. Which is both notable, appalling and sadly expected. Who? Men. Against who? Women.
But let’s put the racism aside for a moment. In society IN GENERAL where is the bigger disparity, whether we look at racist violence or violence within a given community? It remains men attacking women. That does not mean there is not lots of violence between men nor does it mean there are no cases of women being violent to men but that is not what was proposed as a measure. Who against who.
The disparity is so big and so consistent that it always should be noted. Indeed if we compare the extreme rhetoric we see from the right about certain ethnic groups in response to violence, I am struck by how moderate even the most vocal of feminists are in comparison.