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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?

wantanewname Mon 28-Jan-13 12:30:10

or do other people think this is a good idea?

MolehillAlchemy Mon 28-Jan-13 14:45:31

Get yourself booked on the first flight to Mars. You can start a colony of identical people and not have to be troubled by images of differing ethnicity in mostly white areas!


ComingtoKent Mon 28-Jan-13 19:26:51

The idea is that the images in local authority publications reflect the ethnic diversity of the population the authority serves.

If a council is photographing an actual identifiable school, rather than showing a generic school image, then I think you can assume that school actually has some BME kids if they appear in the pictures, I don't believe they're photoshopping extra kids in to make a point.

Is there no value in showing diversity even in 'very white areas'? Are all areas where the images might be seen equally 'white'?

Theresalwaysone Mon 28-Jan-13 19:28:54

Erm well I'd assume (quite obviously) they do it with a view of accommodating the ethnic minorities in the area, not the most visibly seen residents!

I live in South London and there are places I do not frequent because of cliquey mums and their nosy (bored) stares! Ffs, there are even state schools that have a certain identity and amongst many minorities it is accepted that we wont send our child into these schools to be the 'token black' or the play date recluse!

For us there are places we do and don't go for such reasons and it's a real shame for our children since a lot of the educational and cultural activities are marketed towards dare I say it 'white' middle class parents. I often leave feeling we have been part of the entertainment with the bemused 'are we in the right place' looks! Pathetic in 2013 but it happens and it's no big secret. I cant see how/why there are any places that should be accommodating to a particular race and not others in this day and age?

Would you find it odd if a school brochure in 'Southall' for instance had no Caucasian children in it?

I'm inclined to smh at "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" but I'll leave that for another time...

wantanewname Mon 28-Jan-13 20:56:50

eh? This was meant to be a genuine question, not meant in a racist way! I actually find it quite extraordinary that my question should be interpreted like that. I find the reply 'Get yourself booked on the first flight to Mars. You can start a colony of identical people and not have to be troubled by images of differing ethnicity in mostly white areas!' really offensive.

I belong to an ethnic minority group myself and was expressing the view (I'll try to explain it again...) that I and I assumed most intelligent people (certainly other members of my family hold) would hold that e.g. schools in areas of 95% white people would be unlikely to have a very ethnically diverse mix and to represent it like that is assuming that their readership is fairly stupid. Not only that but it is brushing over the actual problem (the lack of diversity) and pretending it doesn't exist.

I'm not sure either what 'I'm inclined to smh at "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" but I'll leave that for another time...' This is actually a positive thing a local authority might do. Like it or not, certain ethnic groups are achieving much higher than others (black, Caribbean boys are achieving the lowest at the moment, Chinese girls the highest) and this is something local authorities are trying to resolve.

Please don't assume a person is racist or any other thing from simply skimming their post - there is a genuine question here.

Softlysoftly Mon 28-Jan-13 21:01:58

I actually don't think yabu before we moved from our home village DH was the only Asian face. When the village hall for some funding for a mural they asked him to put his name down so they got extra funding but had to draw 1 little Asian boy in. Always cracked us up how pc ut was.

I think that it is a little patronising especially as it always feels that the colleague, school child whatever is just chosen to be the token ethnic face iyswim.

stargirl1701 Mon 28-Jan-13 21:02:53


GrendelsMum Mon 28-Jan-13 21:03:32

I think opinons vary, and maybe it's very dependent on exactly what you're showing and why.

A friend who belongs to an ethnic minority group strongly disliked having what he thought of as 'token' BME people shown in pictures, and particularly disliked being included in photos because of this. I certainly took his point of view, and I suspect it probably is pretty grim if you feel you're being called in as 'token BME person', especially if you don't feel the rhetoric of diversity is being lived up to by the organisation.

However, I recently put out some publicity leaflets which showed young Muslim women scientists, just because I happened to have taken some photos of the women myself and they came out well. A couple of people went to the trouble to thank me for having chosen that as the image, so I suppose there are some situations where people actively want the diversity of the role to be portrayed.

Cornycremegg Mon 28-Jan-13 21:06:18

Working class white males are the group who have the lowest literacy attainment.

GoldenGreen Mon 28-Jan-13 21:07:32

I think I see what you are saying. Years ago my sister was part of a school choir that was probably 95% white children. They had a photo taken as part of a concert they were promoting and it so happened that one of the very few black children was pictured right at the front. A family friend saw it and was very scathing, saying it was obvious they had put that child at the front on purpose to look like they were more multicultural than they really are. So yes, I think there are some people who do notice very obvious attempts at inclusion and will be annoyed/suspicious or whatever. answer to your question about whether it creates more problems or brushes over the real problems of lack of diversity - I have no idea, but I know myself I would rather see a range of people welcomed and included everywhere I go and I think that including a range of people in promotional literature is just shorthand for saying "all are welcome". I am fully willing to accept I'm frightfully naive or whatever; that's just how I see it.

gordyslovesheep Mon 28-Jan-13 21:10:07

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

AmberLeaf Mon 28-Jan-13 21:10:23

I'm inclined to smh at "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" but I'll leave that for another time

Yeah me too!

I belong to an ethnic minority group myself
This is the new 'some of my best friends are black' isnt it?


edam Mon 28-Jan-13 21:11:26

Do you have two threads running on this? Why?

Just in case you completely forgot about the other one, here's what I said:

I don't understand why this bothers you, exactly? But as a magazine editor, I can tell you it is important to represent diversity. Being invisible isn't good - think of all the complaints from middle-aged or older women. Unfortunately with stock imagery, models and so on, there is far less opportunity to use images of Black and Asian people. I have a problem with real-life in my mag as well, in that we are part of an organisation so if we go to an event with members, we often end up with all-white pictures. Things are gradually improving, though, years ago there was an underlying belief that a Black or Asian cover model would hit sales (becuase non-celeb covers are supposed to reflect the reader and the majority population is white). I think that's less of a worry these days.

Of course you don't want to be tokenistic but I am pleased when I have an opportunity to use a picture of an Asian or Black person, because it bothers me that it is not routinely available and we should be reflecting society, not one slice of it. Same goes for disability - not that all disability is visible anyway, but it'd be nice to see more representation.

SolomanDaisy Mon 28-Jan-13 21:17:50

I used to work for a local authority that started using cheap bank photos to save money. American bank photos. So lots of very white teeth, clearly American clothes, California beach backgrounds. Now that was unrepresentative.

wantanewname Mon 28-Jan-13 21:20:04

Working class white males are not the group who have the lowest literacy attainment. They are one of the lowest literacy attaining groups at the moment, black, Caribbean boys are still the lowest...but that is besides the point.

I am glad the point I am making is being listened to and shame that I had to mention that I belong to a minority group to stop being accused of being racist.

I do take the point of 'all being welcome' and think this is the intention. I think it is genuinely well meaning but missing the point slightly. Surely to make the point that diversity needs addressing and a way to bridge the achievement gap more effectively would be to acknowledge that in areas of wealth (Chelsea, etc) there are very few BME students in the schools rather than pretend that this is not the case.

Recently a mixed race man - someone I know - was stopped in Chelsea, innocently walking down the street and questioned simply because a crime had recently been committed in that area and it couldn't possibly have been a white person - I know this happens all the time. It's these sort of issues that need to be addressed. I just can't imagine how pretending Chelsea schools are full of mixed race/BME students is going to help this.

CloudsAndTrees Mon 28-Jan-13 21:22:28

I understand where you are coming from, but you were bound to be flamed because of the weird competition MN seems to have going on about who can be the most politically correct.

Tokenism does exist, there is no point in trying to pretend it doesn't, but I don't think it's a bad thing. I don't think it's trying to insult anyone's intelligence, it's just trying to be as inclusive as it can be and show that all are welcome.

wantanewname Mon 28-Jan-13 21:24:47

and yes I do have two threads on this because I posted it chat and then realised it would be better here. I get your point about being invisible not being good but that is about models etc in magazines, my point is about real life - not trying to sell clothes etc.

I think it is tokenistic and offensive to be honest. Of course BME groups use services, I do! But I would prefer realism be shown because lack of it certainly isn't working.

wantanewname Mon 28-Jan-13 21:26:51

and if it doesn't sound politically correct, then you're not reading my post correctly.

CloudsAndTrees Mon 28-Jan-13 21:30:17

If that was aimed at me, then I think you are taking my post wrongly. I don't think you did sound politically incorrect, but there are some subjects that you just can't bring up on MN without getting bizarre responses, as some of these replies have proved. MN is weird like that.

44SoStartingOver Mon 28-Jan-13 21:36:05

Is it really tokenism? Or idealism? Or trying to put forward the image of what an organisation strives to be?

I'm not certain it is intended to be somehow misleading, perhaps more welcoming?

Hard for me to say as an all white group looks stranger to me tbh.

wantanewname Mon 28-Jan-13 21:36:25

CloudsAndTrees, I know. I find it particularly insulting that I deliberately didn't say I was from a minority group because that shouldn't change anything but had to mention that to prevent being accused of racism!

marriedinwhite Mon 28-Jan-13 21:36:33

This will go badly.

I see where you are coming from to an extent OP. When I had my first baby in London 18 years ago I was shocked that the book the midwives gave me depicted a working class couple, a mixed race couple, a lesbian couple, an unmarried couple but it didn't seem to include a married, middle class couple who had planned their baby and desperately wanted it.

Equally the book I got after the baby was born seemed to be written for women who were not very well educated an were more interested in painting their toenails. At the time I was quite shocked that nothing seemed to be aimed at me. With 18 years more of life experience and a local job, in my local community I can see where it was coming from. The problem I think is that the midwives and health visitors had been indoctrinated with political correctness and when the time came they could not empathise or engage with me. I hope they did better with the people the books were written for.

I think the system would have been better if there had been a bit more honesty, ie, that it wasn't really geared for the needs of white, middle class, educated people - in London at least - that it was limited and if we didn't have a family support network - that it advised us to source the emotional help we might need before the baby came. Dons flak jacket.

wantanewname Mon 28-Jan-13 21:39:11

44SoStartingOver - but an all white group in some areas is what it is, just as in some areas there would be very few white faces. I think it is better to let people draw their own conclusions from seeing those groups from both the realism perspective and more importantly from helping to address the problems that exist (lower achievement in poorer, more diverse areas).

44SoStartingOver Mon 28-Jan-13 21:39:12

It is also worth remembering that most photos like this are very staged.

School photography makes me laugh as we try to represent ,girls, boys, different ethnicities, some kids with braces, some with acne (but not too much) and at least a few who can show up at the right place, right time with a school shirt that is actually white!

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