The Express’s “ethnics” article: my take

The front page of today’s Daily Express carried the following lead article:

One in 5 Britons will be ethnics

It went on to expound that ethnic minorities would increase from their current eight percent level to 20% by 2050.

To be fair to the Express, none of the messages in the article itself were inflammatory.  The article was very much information-based, its facts taken from a three-year study by the University of Leeds.  Martin Belam has questioned the basis of much of the statistical analysis, which itself is an issue, but let’s ignore that for the moment.

The issue with the article centres around a single letter.  The final letter of the headline.  The “S” of ethnics.

They will doubtless argue that the term ethnics was used as a convenient abbreviation of ethnic minorities, one that helped with the punchiness of the headline and helped fit it into the space available.  I vehemently oppose that stance.  The use of the word ethnic as an adjective is not offensive, as exemplified in the term ethnic minorities.  So simply taking off the S would have allowed the headline to fit into the space available, while diffusing the impact of the headline.

But by switching from an adjective (ethnic) to a noun (ethnics), the newspaper has completely changed the emphasis of and people’s takeaway from the article.  Ethnics immediately comes across as a pejorative term, one filled with hatred, malice and negativity.  In isolation, some might read the headline “One in 5 Britons will be ethnic” with a positive spin (multiculturalism etc.).  But no one could ever read the headline “One in 5 Britons will be ethnics” with a warm, fuzzy feeling.

A good proportion of those exposed to the headline will not have read any further than that headline—as exemplified by the example Martin cites.

If the Express had any morals—bear with me—it would be utterly ashamed of the inclusion of the redundant, inflammatory S.  But instead, it will continue to publish such articles, along with its beloved rival the Daily Mail, inciting racial hatred (itself a crime) and stunting the growth of this country.  As Charlie Brooker so eloquently put it:

To be fair it’s hard writing headlines against the clock with limited space to get your message across, when you’re a thick racist c*nt.

I couldn’t have put it better myself.


2 Responses to “The Express’s “ethnics” article: my take”

  1. Nick Robinson on July 14th, 2010 08:45

    Presume that you accidentally saw that front page on a fellow commuter’s newspaper or something?

    This I feel is another benefit of working largely from home – I am not assaulted by the poor reading choices of other people. I’m edging towards complete news freedom just lately, even leaving The Economist alone, and it feels very healthy.

  2. SLATFATF on July 15th, 2010 13:30

    I also saw this stat from a different source and was wondering what they define as ethnic minority. I hate the term personally. There are two ways to look at this. The first is, are they saying that 1 in 5 people would be fresh immigrants (i.e. of other nationality) coming to live in the UK. Or, are they saying something different. Are they saying that the total number of people (1 in 5) will either be immigrants or sons and daughters of immigrants. I use to the term immigrant on purpose here because it avoids the generally regarded term of ethnic minority being somehow associated with colour.

    Im my view, the term ethnic minority should be dropped and the term immigrant used where immigrant should be the number of people who hold current other nation nationality or transferred to british nationality. If you include the offspring of immigrants (accepting that a child being brough into the UK would also be counted as an immigrant) then we have a completely racist perspective. If someone is born here regardless of race, religion or colour they are british. To call them ethnic minorities (which I think many do) is simply wrong. My family was Irish, so surely I should count as an ethnic minority? But being white of course, that would be perverse.

    So lets stop pretending that ethnic minorities is a non racist term. It isn’t. Immigrant is the only right term as it is generic and refers to the people who emmigrate to the UK to livem regardless of any physical or religious or cultural labels.

    While we use language that in any way refers to physical, religious or cultural differences (especially when usually only for a small proportion of these attributes) then we will always have racism in the world.

    Not saying you are racist but I think you should not be so quick to defend language that labels and categorised human beings.

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