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Racial profiling on the rise amongst crime watch groups

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A concerning trend has emerged in which local community crime watches have resorted to the use of racial profiling, when identifying suspicious individuals in their respective areas. The issue has been noted specifically on social media, with several community watches using the term “Bravo” to identify black people, and “Charlie” as an identifier for coloured people.

The terms are linked to the NATO phonetic alphabet, representing the letters B and C respectively. The NATO system was established to aid communications between two respective parties, often via radio communication. It is most known for its use as a means of communication in war-zones.

While hailing the positive impact of such community based groups, Media Monitoring Africa’s director William Bird, said the use of such terms was leading to a “toxic mix” between the communities fear of crime and racial prejudice. He said the distribution of information based purely on racial identifiers was unhelpful, especially when it failed to provide much detail on potential suspects.

“It is not as though knowing a person is black is suddenly going to help you apprehend the potential criminal, especially when living in South Africa, most of the people on our streets happen to be black anyway,” he said.

Furthermore, such identifiers were fueling racial stereotypes amongst community members, adding to the unjustified fear many people felt towards a particular race group.

But according to Bird, the adoption of such terms was based on a broader issue amongst racist individuals, who were now ‘moving with the times’. In full knowledge they would be ridiculed for the use of well-known racist terms, they were now starting to formulate new forms of racial identifiers. He stressed that it was imperative the community sought to challenge those stereotypes.

“You’ve got to challenge these kinds of ideas, and you’ve got to make people understand why you think they are racist and problematic. Unless you do that, unfortunately you are complicit with not addressing our deeply divided past,” he stated.

Bird urged the community watches to provide information that would be of use to the community, and that would help empower them to address crime without racially stereotyping individuals. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)


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