ROW ERUPTS OVER ‘RACIST’ USE OF PICTURE:
HALTON Council has been accused of ‘blatant racism’ after it used a picture of two young black American men to illustrate a story about the youth justice system.
The image appears to have been a stock image lifted from any number of websites including Shutterstock.
Kirsty Walker, a blogger who works in the City Of Liverpool College’s English department, raised the issue, pointing out that Runcorn and Widnes are largely white and have very few black residents compared to the bulk of the population, which she said was 98% white.
Although the image is not racist in and of itself, Kirsty said the council’s choice of picture stereotyped black people as criminals.
A reverse image search for the picture online reveals that it might have been lifted from Shutterstock, where its file name is listed as ‘Two young African Americans. A person can be seen in the background out of focus’.
At www.featurepics.com it is called ‘ Young African Americans’ and at the German site www.fotosearch.de it is ‘Amerikaner’, although it has generic numbers and letters names on some sites.
The picture was the more prominent image of the two stock pictures used with the council news story on its website, the other showing a young white woman with the file name used by the council as ‘care leaver’, but the picture of the two black men was the image used on the local authority’s Facebook page.
Other pictures used for other sto- ries show white people in the overwhelming majority of cases.
Kirsty said neither image was representative of young people entering the justice system in Halton.
Citing figures in the Cheshire Youth Justice Board plan 2014-17, she said of 11 young people entering the justice system for the first time, ie being convicted of a crime for the first time, in January-March 2014, one was black and 10 were white.
She added it requires some digging on the Shutterstock website to find the picture of the black men, and she had to type in ‘black youth’ to find it.
Most of the most highly-ranked images found under a search using the term ‘youth justice’ show pictures of white hands in handcuffs.
According to 2011 census data, 97.8% of Halton’s population are white British, Irish, Traveller or white other. The percentage classified as black was 0.2%.
Kirsty said: “When I saw the picture accompanying the press release about youth justice in Halton I could tell instantly it was a stock photo, which meant that someone had been looking for an image to suggest young people in the justice system and thought that two young black men was the best image to illustrate this.
“In Halton, 98% of people are white so there was no reason for the press office to use a picture of two black American teenagers, this was blatant racism as black men often suffer from being stereotyped as criminals.
“There is no way that two black men and one white woman represent the most common identities in the Halton Youth Justice System.”
“If it was somewhere with a significant black population it would still be in stereotyping territory but in Halton it is just racist.
She added: “It’s sad they can’t even see that.”
A Halton Borough Council spokeswoman said: “We have received an email from your reader.
“We will look into the issues that have been raised and respond to her directly.”
● Halton Borough Council has been accused of ‘blatant racism’ after posting a story about youth justice