Every day across Britain, it seems, there’s a new and horrific revelation of sexual abuse: last week we had the guilty plea of veteran TV presenter Stuart Hall, who confessed to 14 cases of indecent assault against 13 girls, the youngest only nine years old.
Days earlier the possible scale of child abuse in north Wales children’s homes was revealed. We now know there were 140 allegations of historical abuse between 1963 and 1992. A total of 84 suspected offenders have been named, and it’s claimed the abuse took place across 18 children’s homes.
But after the shock has subsided and we have time to reflect on these revolting crimes, the main question in most reasonable people’s minds must surely be: what is it about white people that makes them do this?
Jimmy Savile is alleged to have abused 300 young people, and in his case and in north Wales, the abuse could not have happened without a wide range of co-conspirators either grooming children or ensuring the truth never got out. Hardly a week goes by without another white man being arrested in connection with sexual abuse.
I’m beginning to feel sorry for whites. I have many white friends and I know most of them are wholly opposed to sexual abuse. But they must be worried that their whole community is getting a bad name. I can imagine that, every day, with each unfolding case, they must be hiding their face behind their hands, pleading: "Please, God, don’t let it be a white person this time."
And with so many senior community figures implicated, many of us are starting to wonder what will happen to the next generation of whites. How will today’s young whites learn that abuse is wrong when their role models are so tarnished?
First, though, we need to find out what’s causing the problem. Is it something to do with white people’s culture? Is it something to do with their loss of empire, and their new role in the world, as a diminished state desperately clinging to its glorious past? Do they seek to impose their last vestiges of power on the most vulnerable in society?
Or is it that, having spent so much of their history waging wars against each other, they cannot cope with the relative peace of the last half-century, and their frustration at not fighting is taken out on the weakest? I may have no evidence for this, but that’s not going to stop me putting it out there as a cause.
Or maybe it’s their religion? Child abuse in the priesthood has, of course, also been tolerated for decades, allowed to continue unpunished through a conspiracy of silence among the church hierarchy.
And despite the recent falls in attendance, Christianity still dominates European culture. And the Bible, which many whites still look to, has such verses as: "Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol [hell]." (Proverbs 23:13-14) It hardly fits with white society’s claims to care for children. And even those who don’t believe, such as Richard Dawkins, a senior cleric in the atheist community, have sought to downplay the gravity of child abuse, believing it’s no worse than religion itself. As he wrote: "Horrible as sexual abuse no doubt was, the damage was arguably less than the long-term psychological damage inflicted by bringing the child up Catholic in the first place." Of course, what we really need now is for brave white community leaders to come out and distance themselves from the abusers.
Maybe, say, the new head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission should come out and admit the issue is "racial and cultural" and that she fears that "in those communities there were people who knew what was going on and didn’t say anything, either because they’re frightened or they’re so separated from the rest of the communities". Or a white cabinet member could say: "There is a small minority of white men who believe that young children are fair game. And we have to be prepared to say that. You can only start solving a problem if you acknowledge it first." Or the head of a leading children’s charity could say: "There is very troubling evidence that whites are overwhelmingly represented in the prosecutions for such offences." Yet none of this has happened. And this saddens me. Because until we hear those brave voices speaking out against abuse, what are we meant to think?
I urge white people to break this conspiracy of silence. Call on your leaders to show leadership. To show us all that you’re not like the people who dominate the news headlines. That you really do care about protecting children.
You may think all the above is ridiculous; that I’m stirring ethnic tensions on an issue that is clearly about individuals and small groups of people and has nothing to do with race or religion. And that by making this spurious case I’m ignoring the core issue, which is that children, many of them in vulnerable situations, were terrorised and physically harmed by opportunistic men who were able to get away with their crimes for years. You’d be right.
But all of the above arguments were made within various parts of our print and broadcast media when similarly small numbers of Muslim men were revealed to be grooming young girls for sex. If you think the claims about white people are wrong, then so is the stereotyping of Britain’s Muslims, and the widespread questioning of their culture and their religion, because of the perverted actions of a few.
Since the "black crime shock" tabloid stories of the 1980s, editors have known that stoking fears about misunderstood minorities is good for sales. If you object to this article, then you should understand how it feels to be a Muslim reading similar pieces pandering to Islamophobia day after day – and you should object to those too.
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