When does a discussion on crime become a rasist discussion? And when is it just a discussion on crime?
Should crimes be reported as being committed by specific age groups or genders? Should they be identified as being committed by specific body builds, race, or skin color? What about identifying the suspects as being from specific parts of town, or specific provinces or countries? How much should be reported about suspects, and how important is that to the story? What should the public be told about the demographics of those suspected or charged with crimes?
When analyzing crimes, I would think demographics would be very important. If arsons are being committed by 30 yr old Caucasian lawyers from Ottawa 9 times out of 10, that would be something to look further into. What makes a 30 yr old lawyer suddenly start lighting fires, and why only the Caucasian lawyers that come from Ottawa? In understanding the demographics, one can better understand what causes those people to do the crime. Once the causes are determined, prevention measures can be used to reduce those sorts of arsons in the future.
So, demographics can be useful in discussions on crimes when used by analysts. Would the same hold true for community meetings? What if a community meeting was held to discuss arsons in the area. I will use the same example as given above. What if someone mentioned that most of the arsons were committed by 30 yr olds. Or what if they said most arsons were committed by Caucasian people. What if they got specific and said most of these crimes were happening by 30 yr old Caucasian lawyers from Ottawa? Or what if they just said there is a certain demographic committing these crimes. Would any of these statements be considered racist? If the comment made was known to be true, and was in the context of a discussion of the issue, would it be considered racist? And if it was considered to be racist, how could the meeting be at all useful in discussing the issue of arson?
Next, change just one of the demographic markers. Change the age to 12yrs old, 18yrs old, and 60yrs old. Are you tooking at the crime in a different way, and in turn looking at solutions in different ways? Change another marker, change Caucasian to Asian, South American, African American, Aboriginal. Is there a difference again? Now change the profession, change it to cab driver, homeless person, short order cook and secretary. And last, change the origin of the person. Have them living in the area of the arson, living across town, living in BC, living in Ireland, and living in Iraq.
Each time I changed one marker in the demographics, I changed the way I viewed the crime. When I found out the person was a secretary, all of a sudden I saw that they may be female. Previous to that, I looked at the suspects as males.
Each piece of information included or excluded changes the image we create in our minds, and it changes our abilities to understand the crimes being committed.
How can we discuss issues, if we cannot discuss demographics?