Tuesday, March 06, 2007

What is it with identity?

When people look at the world around them they make judgements about other people and put them into pigeon holes. This stereotyping is very rough and ready. It is always the case of them and us. This does not help people live together easily and draws boundaries which are arbitrary. Yet this comes from not only ordinary people but journalists the world over.

Robert Fisk wrote on Saturday that ...

"Take the maps. Am I the only one sickened by our journalistic propensity to publish sectarian maps of the Middle East? You know what I mean. We are now all familiar with the colour-coded map of Iraq. Shias at the bottom (of course), Sunnis in their middle "triangle" - actually, it's more like an octagon (even a pentagon) - and the Kurds in the north.

Or the map of Lebanon, where I live. Shias at the bottom (of course), Druze further north, Sunnis in Sidon and on the coastal strip south of Beirut, Shias in the southern suburbs of the capital, Sunnis and Christians in the city, Christian Maronites further north, Sunnis in Tripoli, more Shias to the east. How we love these maps. Hatred made easy.

... Oh, if only these pesky minorities would go and live in the right bit of our imperial, sectarian maps."

Because people do not totally live in designated areas, they choose where to live for many different reasons. You cannot say that all the people in one particular area all practice on particular religion. All communities are mixed, one religion may be popular but that is all, it is just a statistical fact that would emerge with any population. This grouping only leads to more sectarian division which does not help anyone. It only increases ignorance and people can quickly become bigots.

Robert Fisk then mentions the current issue of Time magazine which has a guide to the Sunni-Shi'ite divide so that the reader can choose their good and bad guys. This is stereotyping of the worse type possible, we are talking about people not lambs infront of a butcher.

Then yesterday we have the column of Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and she is moaning about the lack of non-white faces at the BBC...

"I have been moaning about this for nearly 25 years. First we were denied entry because of direct and indirect discrimination."

... but I have to disagree with her article. We are talking about television, a very over subscribed industry. Thousands of people want to get into television work, there are simply too many people trying to get in. The industry can only employ a relative few and this is done on merit and merit alone. To say that there are not enough non-white faces at the BBC is childish. What I and other viewers want is quality of the broadcast programmes, we do not care what the people look like. I do not think that the output of television should reflect the diversity of ethnic origins in the Uk. It is only television and is to entertain or inform the viewer. The skin colour of the people involved in the programmes should not matter. If I am buying any other product or service I do not check to see if that company employs a workforce that is proportionate to the ethnic diversity of our country. It is the product or service I am interested in, not the colour of the workforce. This is the same with television and newspapers. I do not care about the skin colour or ethnic origins of journalists, broadcasters and actors. It would not bother me having pale white skin, if all my television programmes and my newspaper was produced by non-white faces. It is quality I go for, not what the person looks like or what their ethnic origin is.

I wish people would not stereotype others and simply listen to what that person has to say rather than what you make think they represent. Do not label people because they can speak for themselves and who is to say that the label is the right one.
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