The answer is none more black

I can't let this one go, really.

From yesterday's Mail, (27 November) - 'Storm as Tory MP sends email saying most criminals are black'.

Sometimes, it's difficult to know what the Mail's line on a particular issue is from what they say about it, and it's necessary to look at what has been left out to know their stance. This story is a good example.

Take the headline. Okay, there's a storm (isn't there always?) about a Tory MP sending an email saying most criminals are black, but the headline - and the rest of the article - doesn't really tell us why the email caused a 'storm'. It could be because the email is incorrect and bordering on racism on one hand, or because the email is correct and the MP should be allowed to say these things on the other. An article would normally expand on a headline like this one and let us know, but this one remains ambiguous.

You'd think the most important thing to point out would be that the question he agreed with in his email: 'Are you saying that a lot more criminals are black than white,' is false. That's why there's a controversy. The Mail doesn't, though. Now, there may be legal reasons for this, I don't know. The Mirror covered this story in 'EXCLUSIVE: TORY: MOST CRIMINALS ARE BLACK', along with the Guardian in 'Kelly addresses CRE as Tories face race row', and neither actually say outright that the statement 'more criminals are black than white' is false, but both make the paper's stance on the matter clear one way or another.

The Guardian quotes Spink's comments and says:
According to Home Office statistics, in 2004-05 14% of the prison population in England and Wales was black, with 77% being white.
before giving a more detailed overview of the figures, and the Mirror makes its position clear with it's use of the term 'racism' in its subheading, the repeated use of the term throughout the article (along with 'race row') and the inclusion of quotes from someone with a contrary opinion. So if there are legal reasons for not pointing this out, it's not as if they can't be got around.

The important phrase that Bob Spinks used as a qualifier - 'pro-rata' is the important one here. A larger proportion of the 'young black population are known to the criminal justice system' than the proportion of the white population. But this is not the same as saying that more criminals are black than white. The Guardian exposes this with the prison stats. It's not clear if Spink used the 'pro-rata' phrase at any point in his email exchange with his constituent, but even if he does that doesn't make it right to say that more criminals are black than white. There are still more white criminals than black criminals.

The Mail doesn't draw the readers' attention to this phrase at all, and doesn't explain its meaning, it just leaves it there, floating in the middle of a quote from Mr Spinks insisting he's not racist and the figures are genuine. Now, I have a bit of a confession to make. I wasn't sure what 'pro-rata' meant in this context until I checked, and I've got an English degree. I suspected what it meant only because I knew the statement 'most criminals are black' to be nonsense. Given the lack of clarification or conflicting information, and given that the phrase is only included in the middle of an insistence that the figures are correct, how many Mail readers do you think would have a) spotted it at all, or b) gone away to check if they weren't sure what the Latin phrase meant?

We have some idea from the comments:
What is wrong with saying it if it is true?

- David G, Hitchin England
Well, you see - without the qualifier, it's not true.
Well are they? If they are then what is the problem? Stating a fact is not racist. If they aren't then he should be sacked.

- Dom, Caernarfon, Wales
Nope. They're not.

If that is what the statistics prove then so be it. If you are telling the truth you are not being racist.

Honesty is best; not political correctness.

- Jeff, Thetford. UK
So, let's have the figures. If what he claims is true and there are more 'black' criminals than 'white', I don't see what can possibly be construed as being politically incorrect about his statement. It the figures prove him right, then he is only commenting on a fact of reality. The figures, please!

- Ronnie, Expat, Germany
The reason these readers (and others) are unclear is because the article doesn't make itself clear, and doesn't offer a clear enough position on its own. It remains ambiguous. But given the paper's usual stance on political correctness and telling the 'truth', it's easy to see what the Mail's readership could be expected to take away from this article. If the paper were interested in informing their readers of the truth, it could clarify. But, again, it doesn't.

Familiar, eh?

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