Prejudice Plus Power







I read this article many years ago and realised something. It contains a subtle logical fallacy; see if you can identify it:


Racism and race crime redefined

By Mark Easton
BBC News Home Editor
Open original article

Racism was once defined as "prejudice plus power" - a definition which, in a British context, has tended to exclude all but the white population.

However, the "racist murders" of Kriss Donald in Glasgow in 2004 and Ross Parker in Peterborough in 2001, young white men killed by Asians, demonstrate how society has been forced to redefine racism.

It was, of course, the murder of a young black man, Stephen Lawrence, which changed the debate about race crime in Britain.

The inquiry which followed redefined a racist incident as any "which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person". It is, therefore, a largely subjective crime - and one which has proved extremely difficult to prove beyond reasonable doubt.

The statistics reflect that subjectivity, but they also reflect a belief right across the spectrum in multicultural Britain, that people are attacked because of the colour of their skin.

Changing picture

Until the mid-nineties, the government's British Crime Survey only asked ethnic minority groups whether they had been the victim of a crime which was racially motivated. Since then, all victims are asked and the picture has changed dramatically.

The most recent analysis shows that in 2004, 87,000 people from black or minority ethnic communities (BME) said they had been a victim of a racially motivated crime. In the same period, 92,000 white people said they had also fallen victim.

Focusing on violent racial attacks, 49,000 BME were victims. Among whites, the number was 77,000.

Of those that involved wounding 4,000 were BME. Among the white population it was 20,000.

The numbers can be highly misleading, though. Since about 90% of people in Britain are white, the statistics actually show the risk of being a victim of race crime is significantly greater if you are from an ethnic minority.

According to the most recent Home Office analysis, the chances for a white person is less than 1%. For Black and Asian people it is put at about 1%.

Low risk

Taking into account the subjective nature of the statistics, it seems that the risks are relatively low across all communities.

Nevertheless, for the tens of thousands of white people affected by race crime, the issue is a real one.

The far right has tried to exploit what it claims is the untold story of racial attacks on white people. On the National Front website they feature a long list of "The Fallen", white people they say were killed by non-whites.

Often, however, the crimes have nothing to do with race and in a number of cases, for instance Ross Parker, relatives of the victims have objected to their names being used.

Trying to unravel the motivation behind a crime is always difficult. Was a kick or a punch in a violent robbery any harder because of the victim's skin colour?

Describing an incident as racist may say as much about a victim's mindset as the offender. How else can one explain the British Crime Survey finding that 3,100 car thefts from Asians were deemed to be racially motivated?

Most of the offenders (57%) in the racially motivated crimes identified in the British Crime Survey are not white. White victims said 82% of offenders were not white.

Among black victims of race crime, a quarter of offenders were identified as not white. Among Asian victims, the non-white proportion rises to a third.

There has been an increase in recorded instances of race crime, but experts believe this is due to more people coming forward to report incidents and a greater willingness from the police to take accusations seriously.

The British Crime Survey tells a different story. The most recent figures suggest the incidence of race crime is falling - a drop of 13% year on year.

Amid this soup of subjective and contradictory statistics, what is clear is that race crime is no longer a black and white issue. It is as complex and multifaceted as the communities in which it occurs.

In the Lozells district of Birmingham last year, tensions defined around race exploded into violence. Asian gangs and black gangs clashed in what have been described as "race riots". But, in reality, the disturbances were about poverty, housing and fear.

Racism, prejudice and bigotry are not defined by the colour of someone's skin.


On a mild autumn night a couple walked the streets of Peterborough -- hand in hand. Ross and Nicola had just left The Solstice pub where both worked. They progressed down Broadway road draped in the customary daily darkness punctured - periodically -- by the golden glow of street lamps. Right, onto Westgate road; next, they crossed The Brewery Tap pub car park. They progressed further still, down Bourges Boulevard. A lone man stood before them in the night, a group of three men adjacent to the right. The lone man approached the others. Nicola heard "better start running." Their embraced hands tightened. The men set upon Ross, Nicola froze in fear. Moments later, released from the hand of horror, Nicola fled to seek help. Upon her speedy return she found Ross, limp and lifeless, in a pool of his own blood.

Ross parker was murdered that fateful night - ten days post September 11th 2001 - on September the 21st. Shaied Nazir sprayed tear gas into his eyes. Eyes burning, the group proceeded to beat Ross, Sarfraz Ali with a hammer. Then Ahmed Ali Awan stabbed Parker three times: Twice in the back of the upper torso and once in the throat. All stab wounds to a depth of six inches; twice the blade emerged out the front of the chest.

Half pint was but a boy of seventeen years and five foot five inches tall. His friends - due to his short stature -- referred to him jovially as "half pint". Two of the men were apprehended ten days later, on the 22nd of September. But -- controversially -- all four men were later released on bail, after being charged at Peterborough Magistrates' Court, on or before the 13th of May 2002. "We can't begin to comprehend why they've been allowed out of prison at this stage" Ross' sister Leanne stated. His parents, Tony and Davina Parker, wrote a letter to David Blunkett, the then home sectary, to protest the decision. The home office refused to comment on the case.

Shaied Nazir, 22, Ahmed Ali Awan, 22, and 25-year-old Sarfraz Ali, all who had denied murder, were found guilty on December 19, 2002 at Northampton crown court by a unanimous verdict. A fourth man Zairaff Mahrad was cleared of murder and man slaughter. Sarfraz Ali was given a character reference by labour councillor Mohammed Choudhary and Deputy Mayor of Peterborough, Raja Akhtar. Aktar stated he had "known him to be caring and responsible". All received life sentences. Ali Awan had to serve a minimum 18 years before being considered for parole. The judge Sir Edwin Jowitt QC described him as the "prime mover", saying: "It was you who had the knife and it was you who used it." Nazir and Ali had to serve at least 16 years before being considered for parole.

Two and a half years later on the 15th of March 2004 something unique in Scottish history occurred. With her twelve year old son in hand, Kirsty Dorman walked down Kenmure Street. She was on her way to the post office to collect her mother's pension. A short journey, a familiar journey, a chore performed many times before. A woman of modest means, she resided in pollokshields, Glasgow, a district without prestigious residents or fine architecture. A district, which, upon this early afternoon, could be mistaken for any other suburban sprawl. Cries of havoc, she turned. Strife lay before her, men wrestling with boys. One of the boys was known to her: Jamie Wallace. The other was in the grasp of one of the men. He was being forced into the rear door of a silver Mercedes. The wee laddie resisted, arms and legs flailed, bracing himself round the door opening. "I'm only fifteen, I'm only fifteen" he cried. He was struck; his elbows and knees buckled. Head first he entered the stolen car. It sped away. After ascertaining the boy's identity Kirsty headed to Angela's home, one of her neighbours, the lad's mother. She turned onto McCulloch Street. "I'm sorry; I've just seen your boy getting kidnapped." "What do we do, what do we do?" Angela Donald replied. They soon informed the police.

Alone, in the company of five men - alone -- driven round greater Glasgow, Kriss Donald regretted playing truant from school that day. Brandishing a screw driver and a hammer, they feigned possession of a firearm. Held against his will, a blade twisted in his back. They beat him. While phoning associates to find a location to "sort" the fifteen year old out, they came to a halt at Strathclyde Park, Motherwell. Wearing an electronic tag, Zahid Mohammed exited the vehicle. He had a curfew of six in the evening due to a previous conviction. A response from one of the calls led the other four to Dundee. A possible location had been proposed. Having no luck, they returned to Glasgow, a two hundred mile -- two and a half hour -- round trip. All the while, ever present, was Master Donald - alone.

A contact suggested a secluded spot. Behind the Celtic supporters club on London Road, on the wasteland near the Clyde walkway, they dragged Kriss out the car and into the night. Restraining him near a bundle of felled timber they proceeded to stab him thirteen times. Petrol having been poured over him they set him ablaze. He arose alit - haemorrhaging blood - and staggered less than fifty yards towards the river Clyde. In a vain attempt to extinguish the flames he proceeded to writhe upon the sodden ground, coming to rest in a muddy dip. He suffered seventy percent burns. In the foetal position, cloaked in darkness, there his corpse remained until the light of the next day.

On the 2nd of April 2004 both Daanish Zahid and Zahid Mohammed were arrested in relation to the murder. The other three had fled to Pakistan in March 2004: Imran Shahid, Zeeshan Shahid, and Mohammed Faisal Mushtaq. Pakistan lacks an extradition treaty with the United Kingdom. Zahid Mohammed pleaded not guilty to murder and his plea was accepted at Glasgow high court. He pleaded guilty to the lesser offences of abduction and perverting the course of justice. At Edinburgh crown court - on the 18th November 2004, by a unanimous verdict - Daanish Zahid was found guilty of racially-aggravated murder, abduction and of attempting to defeat the ends of justice. This was the first ever conviction for racially aggravated murder in Scottish history. Mohammed and Zahid were both sentenced on the 16th of December 2004. Mohammed and Zahid received five and seventeen year sentences respectfully.

A one off extradition was attempted between the United Kingdom and Pakistan. Imran Shahid was arrested in Lahore. Faisal Mustaq and Zeeshan Shahid were taken into custody near Faisalabad. All apprehensions took place in early July 2005. All three subsequently agreed to be extradited voluntarily. On the 5th of October 2005 Mr Mustaq and the Shahid brothers arrived in Scotland in the custody of the police.

On 8 November 2006 at Edinburgh crown court Imran Shahid, 29, Zeeshan Shahid, 28, and Faisal Mushtaq, 27, were found guilty of racially aggravated murder. Imran Shahid had lodged a special defence accusing Daanish Zahid, Zahid Mohammed and others for the events of 15 March 2004. All received life sentences. Imran Shahid was sentenced to a minimum of 25 years. Zeeshan Shahid had to serve at least 23 years and Faisal Mushtaq received a minimum of 22 years. "You have all been convicted by the jury of the racially aggravated abduction and murder of Kriss Donald, a wholly innocent 15 year old boy of slight build. He was selected as your victim only because he was white and walking in a certain part of the Pollokshields area of Glasgow." Uttered Lord Uist while handing down the sentences.

Did you find the logical fallacy in the initial article? Need a hint? It's in the first two paragraphs. "Racism was once defined as "prejudice plus power" - a definition which, in a British context, has tended to exclude all but the white population." Mark Easton goes on "However, the "racist murders" of Kriss Donald in Glasgow in 2004 and Ross Parker in Peterborough in 2001, young white men killed by Asians, demonstrate how society has been forced to redefine racism." It once stood that "prejudice plus power" were necessary conditions for a crime to be defined as racist, maintains the BBC home editor. Mark Easton no longer believes these are necessary conditions: A criminal does not require "prejudice" or "power" to commit a racist act. Mark expresses the belief that the original hypothesis has been contradicted. More specifically he believes the cases of Donald and Parker are counterexamples: They are racist crimes where the perpetrators lacked "power" or "prejudice". But are the cases of Kriss and Ross counterexamples? Are the cases of Donald and Parker examples of racist crimes that don't meet the preconditions of "prejudice" and "power"?

So then, did the Peterborough three or Glasgow four lack 'prejudice'? No, this is patently not true. They possessed prejudice. They were convicted of racially aggravated crimes. 'Ross was attacked because he was a white lad in the area at the time' stated Detective chief inspector Dick Harrison: the man who led the investigation into the murder of Mr Parker. Zahid Mohammed, one of the Glasgow four, was asked while giving evidence against three of his co accused: Who were you looking for that night, who did you seek? 'Anyone' he replied. Was your target 'to be a white person?' He replied 'yes'. He told the court that if Kriss had been black or Asian he would not have been seized. The men were not looking for anyone in particular, just 'boys from the McCulloch Street' area. The murderers of Donald and Parker had a prejudice against white men and in the case of the Glasgow four they had a prejudice against white men from the McCulloch street area.

On the night before the murder of Master Donald, Imran Shahid had allegedly been assaulted in Victoria's night club central Glasgow. He had a bottle thrown at him by three white men: Barry O'Neill, 19, James Farren, 20, and James Wishart, 21. All the men were from the McCulloch street area. Imran Shahid yearned for vengeance but not only against the guilty. He wrongly generalised the guilt forming a prejudice against all white men from the McCulloch street area: 'O'Neill, Farren and Wishart wronged me' to 'all white men from the McCulloch street area wronged me'. It was a false generalisation of guilt based on race, gender and residence. He wrongly wished for revenge against any and all white men from the McCulloch street area. The blame was laid at the door of a demographic which just so happened to share certain characteristics with the guilty. They didn't target Kriss Donald. They targeted a white man from McCulloch Street, who just so happened to be Kriss Donald.

False generalisation of guilt led the Peterborough three to form a prejudice against white men in much the same way it had done for the Glasgow four. The world trade centre atrocities had occurred ten days prior to Ross' murder and tensions between the indigenous population and the large Pakistani diaspora in Peterborough were running high. The Peterborough three - rightly or wrongly - perceived that the Pakistani community was being harassed and intimidated by some members of the white community. Whether this harassment and intimidation actually occurred is irrelevant. They believed it did. They wrongly generalised the guilt of these possible acts from 'some white men harassed the Pakistani community' to 'all white men harassed the Pakistani community'. This prejudice subsequently led the Peterborough three to take the life of a perfect stranger for no other reason than he was a white male. They targeted a member of a demographic not an individual. They didn't even know Ross' name. "You put your heads together with the purpose of arming yourselves and of attacking an innocent man you might find by chance simply because he was of a different race to yourselves. A racist killing must be one of the gravest kinds of killing." uttered Sir Edwin Jowitt QC during the final sentencing of the murderers of Ross Parker.

Acknowledging their guilt of 'prejudice' the cases of Parker and Donald aren't counterexamples of 'prejudice, and by default 'prejudice plus power'. But at the very least they should be counterexamples of power? For we are all human, we all make mistakes; Mark can be forgiven for an erroneous claim once in a while? Marks hypothesis may not be entirely true, yes, but surely it's at least partially true? Did the perpetrators at least lack power? Were the murderers weak while the murdered strong? Were the offenders in a position of lesser power while the victims were in a position of greater power?

We can observe a symptom of the disparity of power when there is one decision to be made and two people wish to make it: The powerful win out and have their way. When there are two people who have opposing wants for one decision, the powerful make the decision contrary to the wishes of the weak.

We are already aware the Peterborough three and Glasgow four wanted to take life, on the 21st September 2001 and 15th March 2004 respectfully, as proof of intent is a necessary condition for their subsequent murder convictions. So, if you were to believe - like me - that Kriss and Ross wanted to live and not to die. That Ross parker and Kriss Donald would choose to live beyond the 21st September 2001 and 15th March 2004 respectfully - an innocent enough assumption. You must also believe the Peterborough three and Glasgow four were the powerful while Donald and Parker were the powerless, as the Peterborough three and Glasgow four had their way contrary to the wants of Kriss and Ross. On each of the nights there was one decision: whether the victim lived or died. And two different designs for that decision: one wanting life and one wanting death. The cases of Donald and Parker aren't then counterexamples of the necessary condition of 'power' being in the hands of the murderers. The murderers in both these cases possessed power.

Well, if I'm wrong, and Kriss and Ross were the powerful why didn't they wield their power to prevent their penultimate deaths? Few men wish to die. Why didn't Kriss use his supposed power to resist being abducted, restrained and stabbed thirteen times? Why didn't Ross exercise his power to prevent the blade of the hunting knife passing directly through his torso? How did these criminals manage to do these things without first having power over Ross or Kriss? How does a man or women impose his or her will over another contrary to their will without first possessing power over them? In fact, the murderers of Ross Parker and Kriss Donald didn't lack either 'prejudice' or 'power' -- they possessed both!

However, I don't for one minute believe Mark Easton to be a bad man. I don't believe Mark Easton set out to purposefully deceive. His falsehood wasn't of design, it was by accident. I believe Mark Easton, commenting in his capacity as a BBC journalist, strives to honour his commitment to neutrality, impartiality and accuracy. I believe Mark adheres to speaking nothing but what he genuinely believes to be the truth. But, what makes such a well-educated man believe in such a falsehood? What makes such an intelligent man believe white, strait, male, murdered children are powerful? Especially considering Mark Easton is a white, strait, man himself. What makes Mark Easton - for one moment -- believe any murdered child is powerful at all?

False generalisation. Mark Easton wrongly believes the cases of master Donald and Ross are counterexamples of 'prejudice plus power' because of false generalisation. He falsely generalises power upon race. On average, in the United Kingdom, a white person has greater power than a person of colour. They are on average wealthier, better educated and hold higher positions within society. White people, as a unified demographic, are perceived to be in a position of power not only due to their mean power but also due to their numerical dominance. They form an outright majority of the population. Mark Easton wrongly generalised that white men have greater net power in all instances than brown men because the mean power, of the population, of white men just so happens to be greater than that of brown men. Mark Easton believed Ross and Kriss where powerful because they were white. Mark Easton believes their murderers were weak because they were brown.

Which sum - of a quantity shared by two opposing groups -- is greater depends on the sample in question. The results do not necessarily have to correlate with that of the population. It may be true that men are -- in general -- taller than women but that isn't to say that the combined height of the men in semester two applied mathematics is greater than the combined height of their female classmates. This could be due to the fact that the mean heights differ sufficiently from the mean heights of the population or that there are simply more women in the sample to offset the greater -- on average -- height of the men. It depends on the sample in question. Unfortunately for Ross and Kriss all white men aren't always more powerful then all brown men all the time. Some white men in some instances can be weaker than some brown men sometimes. Even though it may be true, that in terms of means of the population, white men have greater power than brown men.

Furthermore, if you were to believe the cases of Donald and Parker are counterexamples of 'prejudice plus power,' as Mark Easton does, you would also have to believe in some contingent truths: that a murderer could murder without first having power over the murdered, that a criminal can commit an act against a victim without first having power over the victim. You must believe: that a man can act contrary to the will of another without first having power over them. In believing the cases of Donald and Parker are counterexamples of 'power' Mark Easton at least implies that he does. But these can't be true, there has never been an instance where an agent has acted contrary to the will of another without first having power over them - and there never will be. Not today, not tomorrow!

We now know false generalisation of power upon race wrongly led Mark Easton to believe the cases of Kriss Donald and Ross Parker were counterexamples of 'power' but why would anyone generalise power anyway? What would be the purpose in it? People generalise when they wish to view situations in terms of groups as opposed to individuals. Matters concerning groups of people are colloquially referred to as politics. Opinions concerning groups of people are political opinions. If a person's political opinion makes reference to power they are likely to generalise with respect to it.

Palestine, the poor, underperforming minorities are but a few causes typifying the left but all these causes can be said to be just one: the weak. All these causes can be said to be the weaker of two halves. The average Palestinian is weaker than the average Israeli, the poor are weaker on average than the rich and underperforming minorities are weaker on average than the majority. The left is for the weak. The far-left is for the weak and against the powerful.

What the right is and what it stands for is an easier question to answer, the right is for their 'own' and the far-right is against the 'other'. Nationalism is an archetypal cause of the right: being for one's 'own' and against the 'others'. Being for one's 'own' isn't the same as being selfish, for rightists are willing to go to great lengths of self-sacrifice for their country. Rows of white crosses are testament to that. A rightist disposition has driven men to walk into machine gun fire for their country -- to their immense personal detriment.

But surely there isn't anything wrong with empathising with the weak? No. In fact it's a prerequisite for humanism. Conversely is there anything wrong with empathising with your 'own'? No. It is also a prerequisite for humanism. But the difference between a humanist and leftist is that a humanist also empathises with the strong. They share their sorrow and partake in their joy. The difference between a humanist and a rightist is that a humanist also empathises with 'them'.

The error of the left and right lies in the fact the interests of the weak or ones 'own' don't necessarily correlate with that of the good -- even though at times they may. The right often stand for their 'own' for good or for bad and the left often stand for the weak for better or for worse. Being for the weak can drive men to do bad things - against the strong. Being for ones 'own' can drive men to bad things - against the 'other'.

The demarcation between centrists and extremists can therefore be drawn as such: The centre left is for those they generalise as the weak whereas the far-left is for those they generalise as the weak and against those they generalise as the strong. The centre right is for their 'own' whereas the far-right is for their 'own' and against the 'other'. The centre is driven by empathy alone. The extremes are motivated at least in part by antipathy.

The left has played a vital role in European politics since the French revolution but it isn't infallible. It has done much good but criticism of it at times is justified. It isn't perfect. The left at times fails to recognise that sometimes the forces of peace are better armed, that sometimes the good hold the high ground and that sometimes - just sometimes -- the righteous already reign.