Wednesday, February 03, 2016

A Critical Eye on the Threat Narrative Claiming Brown-Skinned Immigrant Men Just Want to Rape White Women

Stuart K. Hayashi

...they're not sending you their best. ... They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems [to] us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

Those are Donald Trump's words from June 2015 about Mexican immigrants.  But the same accusations were applied to Chinese immigrants in the late 1800s.  They were accused of being criminals. They were accused of bringing in drugs -- specifically, opium. And they were called rapists.

Many right-wingers who agitate for the curtailing of immigration repeat a threat narrative.  They claim that brown-skinned immigrant men have caused an epidemic of raping (white) women in northern Europe and that, if immigration is not curbed, this trend will manifest in Canada and the United States as well.

That was actually a common accusation leveled against Chinese men in the 1800s. You can find many racist newspaper cartoons online from the period that say that the sinister Chinaman just wants to lure white women into his opium den. Then, supposedly, he will get her doped up on opium and ravish her against her will. Then, as they do presently, immigration's critics implied that that's what immigration was for. 

From Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper 12 May 1883

I suppose the common rejoinder would be:

OK, maybe it was true, back then, that people were wrong to say Chinese men wanted to enter the USA just to rape white women. But, in our day and age, there are brown-skinned men from a genuinely misogynistic rape culture coming into Western Europe, Canada, and the United States. Why, everyone knows that mass migration from north Africa has made Sweden into the rape capital of the world!

I think that when people say Sweden is the rape capital, that is misleading, because Sweden records rape differently than other countries (even other First-World countries) do. In most countries, if a man kidnapped a woman and raped her every day of the year, crime statistics would list that as a single record of rape. By contrast, Sweden would make 365 separate records of rape for that. That's the reason why Sweden counts more rapes than other countries; it's not necessarily because foreign-born men in Sweden have gone on a raping spree. Comparisons of the rape rate in Sweden versus other countries are not very reliable because they are applying different standards.

The New Year's incidents in Germany and Sweden definitely have to be taken seriously and the perpetrators must be punished. I do think people should be cautioned against the assumption that foreigners all just want to go around raping white women, or that the rape rate would necessarily drop if immigration were curtailed.

Here is a thought experiment: Illiberal, misogynistic Islamists commit both rape and murder. Therefore, if rapacious, murderous Islamists coming to Western Europe increases the rape rate, it would follow that they would increase the murder rate as well (committing honor killings, etc.). The murder rate is a reliable proxy for the rape rate in this context. Even if they are not as stigmatized today as they were in the 1960s, to a large extent rape victims are still stigmatized and are therefore reluctant to come forward. This is why rape victims often tacitly participate in covering up that they were raped (I even know personally of instances of this, including possible instances in northern Europe). But murder is not so easily covered up. Were it the case that Muslims coming into Sweden were significantly increasing the rape rate, it would follow that they would significantly increase the murder rate as well, and we have yet to see that.

As he has in other matters, Frederick Douglass provides wise words here:
There are such things in the world as human rights. They rest upon no conventional foundation, but are external, universal, and indestructible. Among these, is the right of locomotion; the right of migration; the right which belongs to no particular race, but belongs alike to all and to all alike. It is the right you assert by staying here, and your fathers asserted by coming here. It is this great right that I assert for the Chinese and Japanese, and for all other varieties of men equally with yourselves, now and forever. I know of no rights of race superior to the rights of humanity, and when there is a supposed conflict between human and national rights, it is safe to go to the side of humanity….
Not the least among the arguments whose consideration should dispose to welcome among us the peoples of all countries, nationalities and color, is the fact that all races and varieties of men are improvable.

He was right then as he is now.