Coronavirus Covid 19: Don’t speak in code on race. Truth saves lives

Some will remember the Muslim apologists were falling over themselves telling us that Muslim lifestyles had no bearing on spread of the virus, and it was waaaaaysist to even think so. The fact that it has been rampant in Muslim communities was just coincidence of course.  (:)

Much of Manchester and the surrounding regions – along with other places – is supposedly “locked down” again. The announcement came one day before Muslim Xmas (Eid) a few days ago (where they all mingle in hordes). This time the government touched on the issue but telling it like it is, is still beyond them (coz waaaaaysist etc).

However, in the North West of England, and in and around Manchester there are many Muslim areas and these are the ones where the virus is rampant (Blackburn, Oldham, Rochdale, Ashton, parts of Lancashire and West Yorkshire, etc).

Accordingly, this new so-called lockdown is being completely ignored by most non-Muslims as they feel it doesn’t really apply to them unless they are unfortunate enough to live in on of the Muslim dominated areas.

However, one half Pakistani journalist at the Times, Matthew Syed, has broken ranks to discuss it and it’s a good article, reproduced below.

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Don’t speak in code on race. Truth saves lives

Ethnic differences are a big factor in the virus risk. Let’s be open about it

We may disagree about the government’s Covid strategy and the quality of the communication. We may even disagree about the timing of the decision late on Thursday to restrict much of the north of England, although I found it rather hypocritical that many who were blaming the government for acting too slowly at the start of the crisis are now angered they acted too fast.

But we can surely all agree that the announcement itself was a farce, a pantomime of Orwellian proportions. Here was a government imposing restrictions on a region where transmission is rising faster within some Asian communities, and on the eve of the most important festival in Islam, yet Matt Hancock said nothing of this, talking instead of transmission “between families” and “multigenerational households”. This was ministerial statement by code.

Over the next 48 hours, information came out in dribs and drabs — but not from ministers. The director of public health for Blackburn with Darwen said that 79% of recent cases in the predominantly white city had been among people from a south Asian background. Statistics from Public Health England for the week ending July 26 showed that 1,369 of those testing positive in England (37%) were Asian or Asian-British — a group that made up 7.5% of the population in the last census. Shouldn’t ministers have helped us interpret these statistics, rather than pretend they didn’t exist?

Some will doubtless applaud the government’s approach. After all, ministers are worried about igniting a backlash against Asians. They may also be fearful about being perceived as racist themselves. But shouldn’t we have learnt that racism is inflamed not by information, but by disinformation? Whatever the short-term risks from explaining the facts, they are far outweighed by the insidious decoupling of meaning from reality, creating the space for conspiracy theories to grow and mutate. Racism thrives in the gaps left open by right-minded people who fear inconvenient truths.

Among the litany of recent disasters, one can’t overlook various grooming scandals, including in Rotherham and Rochdale, where the unwillingness to discuss the ethnic dimension led to a virulent backlash against the Pakistani community that would have been inconceivable had a grown-up debate taken place earlier. It also led to more vulnerable youngsters being abused.

Across the Atlantic, one might also place police violence in this category: few pundits have had the courage to share peer-reviewed data — albeit contested — that lethal violence against black people is roughly the same as that against whites if the prevalence of crime in the two populations is taken into account. Why does this matter? Because the fearless analysis of data is the starting point for solutions — a point that should be embraced by the right and left.

Going back to Covid-19, nobody objects to ministers chronicling regional variation in the transmission of the virus. Indeed, this is what offers the best hope for a targeted approach. Yet the fact that they feel unable to talk about ethnic variation in transmission — information of lifesaving significance for the communities most at risk — shows how entangled we have become in the fine mesh of political correctness.

One of the most beautiful things about my father’s side of the family (he hails from Pakistan) is the deep love and respect for older people. It is rare to put parents into nursing homes because of the duty to care for them at home. But this is precisely why nothing would have had a deeper impact on Asian communities than a frank statement about how this cultural strength can, in the context of an epidemic, prove perilous. By tiptoeing around racial sensibilities, Hancock will, I fear, cost lives.

Allow me to restate: plain talking isn’t merely of great utility, it is also the surest antidote to bigotry. Why? Because by plainly stating the facts, we are likely to reach a more objective analysis. Craig Whittaker, one of the more hapless Tory MPs, explained the higher transmission among some ethnic groups as a disregard for rules on social distancing. “[Black and minority ethnic] communities are not taking this seriously enough,” he told LBC radio.

Yet while this may be a factor (some community leaders also made this point), I doubt he would have collapsed so complex a problem onto so simplistic a cause had the government set out a more comprehensive analysis from the outset. Asians — a diverse group — are, on average, more likely to work in frontline professions where social distancing is difficult, and to live in overcrowded housing. Whittaker was scarcely challenged by his interviewer.

The point is that data is not the enemy of rationality; it is the friend. This is particularly true during a pandemic — we need to know about risks of transmission in family settings, at meatpacking facilities and when people (mostly young and white) congregate on beaches or at raves and pubs. By understanding these patterns, we can take wiser precautions.

Of course, advocating for open discussion may seem quaint in a post-truth age. But look at the evidence. If you want to understand the growth of anti-immigrant sentiment in the UK, you are looking in the wrong place if you focus on Nigel Farage or even Tommy Robinson. No, this was seeded by Tony Blair and his mendacious silence about European Union enlargement in 2004, a topic that ministers were in effect barred from speaking about.

This fanned a sense of grievance, partly because nobody was addressing people’s concerns, but also because nobody was sharing hard data on the economic benefits of immigration, the net effect on the public purse and the heroic work performed by immigrants in the NHS and other services. In this context, it is worth recalling that the first four doctors who died from the coronavirus in the UK — Alfa Saadu, Amged el-Hawrani, Adil El Tayar and Habib Zaidi — were all from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Or take the rise of Donald Trump. He has got away with serial bigotry precisely because he could position it as an antidote to a climate of political correctness that has stifled free speech.

This is where the suppression of open dialogue ultimately leads. Polarisation. Post-truth. A clown in the White House clinging on to power. And, yes, a British minister unable to state a key reason for restrictions during a pandemic, leading to the viral dissemination of tropes and conspiracies.

Political correctness started out as a wonderful thing. Most people were delighted that the n-word and other hateful phrases had been removed from public discourse. But by taking it too far, we have exacerbated the problems it was designed to solve. This is the elephant in the room, the truth around which all right-minded people should coalesce.

As Orwell put it: “Political chaos is connected with the decay of language . . . one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end.”

@MatthewSyed

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