It is amazing what societies can get used to. The latest rape-gang case in the U.K. is a case in point. A gang of 20 men from Huddersfield were last week convicted and sentenced for the rape and abuse of girls as young as eleven. As in previous cases, the convicted men were of all Asian origin and their victims all local underage girls.
This time, as in every previous such case (Rotherham, Rochdale, Telford, Oxfordshire, Bristol, Keighley, Newcastle, Derby, etc., etc.) the stories are horrific. In the Huddersfield case one of the victims reportedly cracked her head while jumping from a first-floor balcony to escape the gang. Another deliberately burned her own house down so that her family would have to move from the area. “It was the best thing I ever did,” she said, “and that’s bad saying that burning your house down is the best thing you ever did.”
There are many similar cases still to come, so the story is not going away. As the BBC’s correspondent puts it, the backlog of cases are “overwhelming our police and our courts.”
But when I say that Britain has gotten used to these cases, it is true. They come up in the papers with considerable regularity, but after the convictions there is no noticeable debate, let alone any shift in political outlook. Nothing happens. Or at least nothing positive. Last year, Member of Parliament Sarah Champion was fired from the Labour front bench just for mentioning the ethnic component in these rape-gang cases. As the MP for Rotherham, you would have thought, she’d be permitted to mention the gang-rape of her constituents. But no. For the time being one can deplore the mass rape of the nation’s children, but it is a bit much to want to actually address the issue.
Meantime, the true attitude slips out only accidentally. Last year the Labour MP Naz Shah shared a Twitter post saying, “Those abused girls in Rotherham and elsewhere just need to shut their mouths. For the good of diversity.” Shah — not the smartest cookie in the jar, it must be said — didn’t seem to realize that the tweet was from a spoof satirical account. She deleted her reposting after criticism. But her first instinct was the honest one. Like many other people in positions of power across Britain, Shah finds the victims of these crimes to be inconvenient to the national narrative.
This is that diversity is an unalloyed good and that the more people you have from the more places then the more wonderful cultural practices you will be able to enjoy. Even the contemplation that there might be some rough with the smooth is brushed away. And what is anybody going to do about it anyway?
Though we may have got used to the cycle of these stories, I’d bet a fair amount of money that of all the cases that fill up the news in any given year, those like Huddersfield are the ones that are going to have the longest reach and impact. They detonate something very deep beneath the dogmas and presumptions of our time. And the public will be thinking about them, even if their politicians are all hoping otherwise.