Protecting your own versus not appearing racist. Both of these moral positions (which become public semiotics when simplified as aspects of culture) are understandable until taken to extremes.
The first example comes from England, where police and public officials were afraid to appear racist and consequently allowed some 1,400 children to be abused without investigating the matter, which had been clear as a bell for years:
The vast majority of perpetrators have been identified as South Asian and most victims were young white girls, adding to the complexity of the case. Some officials appeared to believe that social workers pointing to a pattern of sexual exploitation were exaggerating, while others reportedly worried about being accused of racism if they spoke out. The report accused officials of ignoring “a politically inconvenient truth” in turning a blind eye to men of Pakistani heritage grooming vulnerable white girls for sex. (Abuse Cases in British City Long Ignored, Report Says)
That quote and story is from the New York Times. Isn’t that the most fucked-up thing in a long time? British officials were so concerned about appearing racist that they looked the other way while an enormous number of their own children were being violently raped. We might say in the sedate language of academic analysis that the public semiotic or the moral injunction against racism was so strong that they lost their capacity to think and act.
Here is the other extreme, a group that so wants to “protect” its own that they are willing to prevent them from making individual choices that harm no one.
This video is a good example of the raging emotions that can be experienced at the other side of the spectrum from the case in Britain. An article about this incident can be found here.
Fortunately, it is not often that we can see such extremes within a single week. I would propose that all of us are susceptible to the emotions that lie along this spectrum from extreme “self” preservation to such amazing laxity that sworn officials cannot even lift a finger to preserve the safety of their own children.
The difference between us (you and me, dear reader) and them is most of us can find a reasonable balance between these primitive extremes, the one born in sexual and tribal instinct, the other in overwhelming deference to internalized social norms.
Edit 8/29/14: Here is more on Rotherham: Rotherham: In the face of such evil, who is the racist now?
Here is one from the USA: Conspiracy of Silence. If you have not seen this video, it’s a must watch, especially for US citizens. There are several good books on this story and many links to articles can be found easily.