When You’re Allowed to Be Racist


I just read this article about how a man kills his wife by cutting her head off. The title of the article is “Muslim TV exec accused of beheading his wife”. Maybe I could understand if this article were written say in the Spanish press where the nationality or religion of a crime suspect (when not Spanish) is considered newsworthy as if criminality and ethnicity were intimately related. But in the American press, political correctness and journalistic integrity long ago recognized the racist pitfalls in defining suspects by their race, religion or ethnicity.

Nevertheless, a man kills his wife and he happens to be Muslim, so there is the presumption that Islam is the culprit. Isn’t it funny how the political correctness of the American media and society would never have allowed anyone to bring up the man’s race or religion were he Jewish, Christian, Black, or Hispanic?  It would not be considered newsworthy, but Islamophobia is so strong that no one complains and everyone is eager to draw conclusions. Meanwhile men are killing there wives all the time throughout the world. In Spain, it is actually a big problem, but no one is claiming there is a Spanish tradition of honor killing.



Filed under Essays

11 responses to “When You’re Allowed to Be Racist

  1. Borja

    Eric, it is really unfair to say that domestic violence is a big problem in Spain. In this matter I think we are totally manipulated by the media. I am sure machist violence was much more an issue in the past, but it was not reported. Fortunately, now women do not resign themselves from being abused and denounce these crimes. So, paradoxically, I believe that the situation is now better, but the media make it sound like every man is a potential wife-beater.

  2. eric


    I would totally agree that domestic violence is probably not a new phenomena in Spain and is now only portrayed as an important issue by the media. Nevertheless, it is probably one of the leading types of homicide, right? My guess is that from a statistical view point, there is no basis to claim that there is a higher incidence of spousal murders in Muslim countries than in Europe or North America. When it happens in the US, we generally call it a “crime of passion” and classify it as voluntary manslaughter. But in this case, when murder happens to be Muslim, we correlate it to his religious beliefs, hence the prejudice and racism. Couldn’t we argue, using the same logic, that because men kill their wives in Spain that when a Spanish man kills his wife it is because he is Spanish. Or better yet, when any Basque person commits a crime it is political?

  3. Borja

    I absolutely agree with your remark, it is racist to imply that being muslim you have a higher probability of killing your wife.

    The only comment that I am against is that domestic violence is a big problem in Spain, implying that is worst than in other countries. I think this image is shaped by the local media and by the campaigns funded by the Spanish government that criminalize every spanish male as a potential wife-beater. I remember some time ago a dinner with Gonzalo (Network guy at FON) and two italian girl friends. They mentioned during the dinner that guys like us were an exception, that the average guy is violent and beats his wife. This kind of comment gets me on my nerves…

  4. eric

    I was using the Spain example precisely to make your point. The stereotype based on media coverage of spousal abuse does not mean that the average person is violent or that Spain is a country with a culture based on domestic abuse.

  5. William

    Eric, your blog post misses the point. It’s NOT “a man kills his wife and he happens to be Muslim”. The guy who beheaded his wife was the exec of a “Muslim TV Station” specifically aimed at countering stereotypes of Muslims ! That’s why it’s such a newsworthy story! You (wrongly) read the title of this article “Muslim TV exec” as if the emphasis was on just the word “Muslim” when in fact the emphasis is on “Muslim TV”.

  6. eric

    I don’t think that flies, bro! The effect is what it is, regardless of the theoretical intent. Furthermore, the stereotype is created and furthered by the article. Unless of course, you’d article that if you substituted the race/ethnicity of the character and the stereotype and came to the same conclusion. A black guy working for BET commits a crime that is considered stereotypical of African Americans and that he his black and has committed that crime are newsworthy.

  7. William

    Hmmm, not sure your BET analogy makes sense. BET is a TV channel that celebrates african-american culture and it targets a young african-american urban audience. Its aim isn’t specifically to help balance negative portrayals of african-americans. In fact, it’s increasingly being criticized by the african-community for doing just the opposite : http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/05/arts/05enou.html?_r=1

    This TV exec created his TV show SPECIFICALLY to counter negative portrayals of muslims in the media and the guy ends up beheading his wife in what is ostensibly an honor killing. That’s why it’s such a particularly crazy story and why the word “Muslim” is used to refer to the disconnect that is central to the story. Had the guy been the exec of a TV show specialised in gardening or biking, then, yes, your argument would stand.

  8. Seriously cugino,

    Stories of Muslims beheading, stoning, abusing, beating, and any manner of just general murderous behavior towards females, is all too well documented, (ummm, virtually since recorded history started being … well, recorded).

    There’s a reason why stereotypes exist; because humans continue to behave in a pattern that has been associated with particular terminology.

  9. P.S. This isn’t racism, he wasn’t called an “Arab TV Exec”; at best, it barely qualifies as ethnicism … or maybe it’s religism … or creedism …

    Oh wait, scratch that last one; creedism is when you are a horrible hard rock band, that hypocritically tries to tout Christian virtues with a bunch of drinking and drugging manwhores as the band. Or wait … maybe that’s just standard Christianity … oh man, I’m so confused.

    Mia culpa.

  10. eric

    Every day in the U.S. and in Europe, you read articles about men killing their wives. I don’t have the facts here, but my guess is that statistically speaking, it is hard to make the argument that honor killings are somehow more Muslim than they are Christian or American. Heck, American are world famous for killing.

    And James, you are correct, “Muslim” is not a race and Islamophobia is not properly racism, but as most Westerners continue to confuse the terms Arab and Muslim and put them all in the same batch, thinking of everyone from Morocco to Qatar to Pakistan as a single group of people with a one definite culture and way of life, I will call it racism.

    Now, I may or may not agree with your first point about the underlying facts that lead to the birth of stereotypes, but that is always kind of part of my argument here. In the U.S., political correctness would never permit someone to say that there are certain truths behind stereotypes of Jews, Hispanics or African Americans, so why isn’t the hyper-sensitive political correct media to hold Muslims to a different standard. We replaced our Cold War fear of “commies” with Muslims.

  11. We replaced our Cold War fear of “commies” with Muslims.

    That is correct. Welcome to humanity, it is always easier to control the herd with fear of an enemy.

    Although, the Soviets are still far more deadly in a pragmatic perspective. They just aren’t interesting any longer, the public needed new hype; lo and behold, the ME offered themselves up for the position.

    Me, I love stereotypes, good entertainment.

    Check your statistics, and then read around about them. In the U.S. it is almost equal in the male to female/female to male domestic violence with one notable exception. Males don’t report it as often; it just isn’t manly to admit you got your ass whooped by a woman.

    And they aren’t “honor killings” here, that’s just utter BS. They are just killings/murders. Christians don’t do that here, they just go get some meth and hang out with a male prostitute. 🙂

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