To think positive promotion of BME imagery in local authorities is misplaced

(111 Posts)
wantanewname Mon 28-Jan-13 12:24:56

Local authorities seem to have a policy whereby photos promoting e.g. a school, museum etc have to if possible have at least one BME (black and ethnic minority) person in the photo.

Now, I can totally understand this if for example the local authority is e.g. trying to increase literacy levels in children and finds that literacy levels amongst some BME groups is lower than amongst e.g white groups and therefore uses a photo of a black child in a library. This I can understand. What I find hard to understand is the idea that this applies across the board. For example, does it do any good when a local authority is photographing a school in a very white area to use the few black pupils in every photo? I think in that instance it is patronising to the public - implying that their knowledge of the school/area is wrong and creates a warped view that there isn't a lack of diversity that needs to be addressed in certain areas when there actually is.

Or is there something I'm missing? I notice this in local authority literature all the time and think that they are actually creating more problems with their attempts at diversity? It annoys me because it doesn't seem well thought out...just wondered what other people think about this?

44SoStartingOver Mon 28-Jan-13 21:39:57

Surely nowhere has an all white population?

ChoudeBruxelles Mon 28-Jan-13 21:43:05

I am the comms manager at an authority in a very diverse city. We simply try to be representative across a range of materials (not just BME but old and young people, male and female, able bodied and disabled ....). It looks ridiculous trying to depict every possibility on everything.

thehumanstain Mon 28-Jan-13 21:44:48

State schools in Kensington & Chelsea are very diverse - probably to an inflated degree, bearing in mind most of the wealthy (often white) residents of the borough choose independent schools.

mercibucket Mon 28-Jan-13 21:47:43

at least they don't actually photoshop the pictures

mercibucket Mon 28-Jan-13 21:50:27

http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2009/09/02/doctoring-diversity-race-and-photoshop/

unlike these people

wantanewname Mon 28-Jan-13 21:51:21

The example of Chelsea was just one. There are areas where it is predominately white and areas where it is much more diverse, the diverse areas tend to be poorer. There is a huge attainment gap and the gap exists for a multitude of reasons including 'invisible' racism.

Yes, local authorities try to represent all groups where possible and yes I can understand that this is a well meaning attempt to be inclusive and stop making people feel excluded and in many cases (my library one) there is an outcome that may actually help. However, in others - it would be better to draw attention to the lack of diversity if you want to narrow the attainment gap.

thehumanstain Mon 28-Jan-13 21:51:24

My post was aimed at wantanewname, by the way, not the thread in general.

MrsDeVere Mon 28-Jan-13 21:52:55

I have had five children. My first born in 1992 and my youngest in 2010.

My children are mixed race.

When my eldest were small it was unusual to see children like them represented in books or in films and cartoons in the mainstream. We had to turn to the Letterbox Library or similar to find niche books for my far from niche children.

Today it is taken for granted that we will see photos of black children and those from other backgrounds in books and on telly and dolls and real life role models.

I remember thinking 'one day, a child that looks like one of mine will be on the side of a pampers packet'. It seemed a far off dream. But here we are, my DCs are finally 'normal' and I don't have to order their books and toys from a specialist supplier.

Do I think that is a bad thing?

No.

Pendeen Mon 28-Jan-13 21:53:39

I agree with you OP, it seems like a deliberate policy to claim they "reflect the diversity" even if there is absolutely no diversity at all.

For example this picture just seems, well, odd.

I think the council have some really strange ideas about the population here in Cornwall.

wantanewname Mon 28-Jan-13 21:56:31

mercibucket - that is my point exactly and the line; 'This suggests, fourth, that there was a real lack of a substantive dialog about and investment in race and diversity on the campus.' is exactly the point I am trying to make. The lack of dialogue about the real problem and how this misrepresentation masks and confuses the real issue (however well intentioned).

I am still smarting because despite trying to explain myself as articulately as possible I was accused of racism by some posters.

blueemerald Mon 28-Jan-13 21:58:11

Just to clarify Irish Traveller and Romany Gypsy children have the lowest literacy attainment by a country mile and are left out of most articles about the issue. In 2007 15.6% got got 5 good GCSEs, 8.4% got 5 A*-C including maths and English. They are also more likely than any ethnic group to be excluded from school.

Source

gordyslovesheep Mon 28-Jan-13 21:58:22

why is a picture of 4 boys reading 'Odd' - I am totally lost - or do black kids not read? do boys not read? do black and white boys not play together?

I am with Mrs DV - I see nothing 'odd' with BEM people being on council leaflets etc

Theresalwaysone Mon 28-Jan-13 21:58:50

Its as simple as gordyslovesheep put it 'YABU BEM people use council services and pay council tax - ergo they are part of the community the council serve and thus included in the publicity - obviously'.

'Like it or not, certain ethnic groups are achieving much higher than others (black, Caribbean boys are achieving the lowest at the moment'....... OK now I actually understand where you are going with your question, BUT I am uncomfortable with you linking black male school success rates to an issue as simple as literacy! This is another topic altogether and one I'm pretty sure should be discussed elsewhere. Its not light and its not comfortable and I think you would get netter insight in a topic specific forum iyswim!

In response to your original question, I cant see how it can be a bad thing! People are going to be racist or they are not, a picture of a BME child is not going to do much to change that.

Even in an environment where there are 95% Caucasians, as a policy maker working in a position where my pay is contributed to by all races, it would be my obligation to communicate effectively to all the communities I serve! Serve being the operative word, essentially these are not positions where you pick the most cost effective target audience. To further this, you can safely assume that in a 95% Caucasian community some BME groups are likely to be disengaged from mainstream activities and where for instance a language barrier may play a part, images are a strong way to draw ones attention to something which can/should involve them!

wantanewname Mon 28-Jan-13 22:03:58

I can take your point MrsDeVere but I do think it is a point worth discussing.

Of course, children (and adults) want to see people like them represented but the other issue - the actual lack of diversity in many areas of achievement needs looking at too. For example there is a local authority where 25% of the children are BME but only 6% of it's headteachers are BME and that would be conveniently brushed under the carpet if in every shot possible of that local authorities' schools the 4 BME headteachers were photographed.

wantanewname Mon 28-Jan-13 22:08:47

Theresalwaysone, I really don't think you are understanding my point and there's only so many ways I can say it! (I am certainly not linking black male school success rates to an issue as simple as literacy! but I really can't go on explaining the same thing over and over again in different ways).

It is a fairly simple matter, local authorities are well meaning and trying to be as inclusive as possible but are airbrushing real issues in doing so.

Theresalwaysone Mon 28-Jan-13 22:11:27

I see where you are going but this is a year long conversation! With all the separate issues you've bought already and all the others that are likely yo come up your going to need about 100 different threads but its an important topic.... I will participate accordingly but this may get messy wine

Theresalwaysone Mon 28-Jan-13 22:13:07

Fully understood just very aware of the forum were discussing this on!

gordyslovesheep Mon 28-Jan-13 22:13:31

I Think I am getting you point ...Local Authorities going out of their way to LOOK inclusive without actually doing anything to either BE inclusive or address real issues of equality?

so Tokenism rather than action?

Theresalwaysone Mon 28-Jan-13 22:19:24

The biggest point of my thread was this..... 'you can safely assume that in a 95% Caucasian community some BME groups are likely to be disengaged from mainstream activities and where for instance a language barrier may play a part, images are a strong way to draw ones attention to something which can/should involve them!', so I can not agree with your original sentiment and I can not really see or care less about it presenting a particular image to the host community BUT I do agree that such token gestures skim over wider racial issues....

Also, I don't think BME image placing so to speak is necessarily negative, ill thought out yes, embarrassing yes, sometimes funny yes! I just honestly cant see the link between that and wider issues. 'Skimming' does happen, we know this but this just seems like poor marketing although I'm basing this on the assumption that the council does not operate as one huge single department iyswim?

Chunderella Mon 28-Jan-13 22:22:03

The OP is not phrased in the way that I'd have put it. However, OP would not be the first person from an ethnic minority to express a cynicism about institutions with very few black and Asian people using them in publicity literature to try and look more diverse than they are.

wantanewname Mon 28-Jan-13 22:22:08

yes, that is the point. Tokenism rather than action. Tokenism achieves nothing, fools a few and annoys others (the ones who see that it is tokenism). Although I do see MrsDeVeres point too that children and adults do need to see their groups represented in order not to feel left out. I know it is a difficult subject but blanket inclusiveness is really a way of doing nothing.

wantanewname Mon 28-Jan-13 22:24:59

Theresalwaysone - I don't think token gestures skim over wider racial issues, I think they actually prevent action being taken to address those wider issues.

gordyslovesheep Mon 28-Jan-13 22:28:53

ahhh then yes I do agree - I also agree with Mrs DV - I think there is a fine line between representation and tokenism

Of course all members of the community should be represented in literature etc but they should also be represented at every other level - including accessibility, funding, housing, education etc

Theresalwaysone Mon 28-Jan-13 22:30:07

Agreed!

marriedinwhite Mon 28-Jan-13 22:33:01

Thing is, if 49% of the people pay the tax, shouldn't 49% of the people deserve to be represented in the Local Authority/Health Authority Literature? Don't the majority have the same rights to inclusion and care as the various minorities. And in 1994 when I had my first baby I think it was more than 49%. Happy to support all minorities but have a sneaking feeling that the rights of the minorities are not going to be protected by the peopel in power continually ignoring the majority and forgetting that they count too.

I appreciate that's a controversial thing to say too but I can't be the only person beginning to feel uneasy that things have gone too far and that dangerous forces will begin to make ground. The indigenous majority population is getting pissed off and the people in power need to be aware of this and need to take a measured course of action to ensure that the minorities retain their freedom and their safety and that the UK remains an inclusive and tolerant society. It doesn't seem to be doing the right things to deliver this at the moment. Most of my family came to the UK as refugees and I am beginning to feel unnerved about what might happen at present if there isn't a bit more appreciation of the rights of the British people and I say British inclusively and unreservedly. There will be a kick back and it may be ugly if it isn't staunched by sense rather than by racism.

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