Presuming Wrongly

by admin on January 3, 2012

Dear Readers,


I’m sure some of you have, by now, noticed that your comments on yesterday’s post, “Parking Savsies”, were not approved for publication.   That is because the stated declarations that anyone who is labeled “young, urban, gangster punk ” must therefore be black was considered too presumptuous and inflammatory for this blog.

This site has readers all over the world….United Kingdom, Singapore, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Germany, US, Denmark, etc…and to assume that a “young, urban, gangster punk” must be African American could be erroneous and rude.   What others may view as a young gangster punk may be entirely different than what stereotype pops up into your head upon reading those words.

I noticed one of our British readers mentioned “chavs” which Wikipedia describes as youth loitering in “gangs on street corners and outside shops”,  engaging in “petty thievery and violence,vandalism and an exaggerated ‘tough’ gangster-like voice and lingo and foul, aggressive language”.     Chavs are most definitely Caucasian which demonstrates my point that readers who assumed the young parking space saver in the story had to be African American/black were making a few seriously wrong assumptions based on their own cultural stereotypes.   The storywriter could have been referring to a young, black male but then, maybe not.



{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Ejvind January 3, 2012 at 6:38 pm

To note to the admin though, a chav does not have to caucasian. Much like you get white “ganstas” you can get black chavs.


Kali Ravel January 3, 2012 at 7:34 pm

What an interesting cultural difference! I’m from the UK, and did, in fact, picture a Caucasian person.


kelly January 3, 2012 at 8:06 pm

I am British, and your assumption that chavs are white is incorrect. Chavs can refer to anyone of any colour, race, sex, nationality. The wikipedia entry is also incorrect. A chav does not have to be a criminal, it is more of a class issue. They will tend to wear clothes with designer names on, sportswear, fake tans, fake nails, “bling” etc. Paris Hilton would be considered a chav for instance, but then so is P Diddy.

Aside from the race issue, the OP and her grandfather were out of line in the original story.


admin January 4, 2012 at 3:34 am

Googling images of “chav” shows only Caucasians. It seems the Internet is overwhelmingly identifying a chav as being white.


Angeldrac January 3, 2012 at 9:08 pm

It’s strange, I read “young, urban man” to imply a well-dressed, young, professional-looking city dweller. Obviously we all derive different meanings and connotations from certain language and phrases used. It just goes to show how carefully we should both be in expressing ourselves and interpreting others, something we all should be aware of in this forum environment.


Aria January 3, 2012 at 9:34 pm

Fascinating… I actually pictured a white teenager/young adult when I read the story…


jess January 4, 2012 at 4:14 am

I actually did the same as angeldrac, I pictured a young white male in a suit 🙂


Green123 January 4, 2012 at 5:08 am

No, Admin, you are wrong. Chavs are most definitely NOT all caucasian. Whether or not the ‘internet’ identifies chavs as white, here in the UK, chavs are people of a lower social class or who dress as though they are, i.e. in designer sportswear and bling as Kelly describes. A chav, in the UK, can be of any race – indeed many chavs in my local area of Asian descent.

When I read yesterday’s story I pictured a white guy, personally…


Gilraen January 4, 2012 at 5:09 am

“young, urban man” indicated to me a male under 25, no cowboy. Nothing else. It never even crossed my mind that there could be a skin colour difference. Only a difference in what is acceptable behaviour between three people.


wolfgirl January 4, 2012 at 5:36 am

Yeah admin, I’d say you’re right that the “chav” stereotype in the UK generally referes to caucasian kids, hence your google earch result. In popular culture characters who are chavs (eg Vicky Pollard) are almost always white. However, this is not a hard and fast rule, it refers more to anyone indulging in chav-like behaviour and clothing I’d say! So whilst anyone can be a chav, it more generally referes to white, working class young people who exhibit certian behaviours/language/dress. Often living/hanging round on council states, not working etc. So this can clearly include black kids, but was coined as a term to describe white kins of this type. Much like a white person can be called “gangsta” (or whatever it is called in the US), but is statistically somewhat less likely to be, as this is a stereotype refering to certian types of black/African American urban youth culture, associated with certian types of dress, music, langucage etc… Make sense? No? Ah well I tried! 🙂


kelly January 4, 2012 at 6:07 am

As I said I am from Britain, and chav does not mean someone who is white. Google may not be the best thing to base your assumptions on other countries on. It is incredibly rude to tell a person they are wrong about their own country based on what you find on the internet.I suspect that googling “young urban gangsta punk” is going to bring up a lot of pictures of black people, yet you stress that this may mean a white person. And “gangsta punk” is not how a British person would describe a chav.


admin January 5, 2012 at 10:39 am

Google “young urban gangsta punk” won’t reveal quite what you anticipated. Go ahead. Try it. My results showed a racial mix.


Anon January 4, 2012 at 6:13 am

Just to echo the other comments, a ‘chav’ can be any ethnicity. Your statement that chavs are most definitely Caucasian is incorrect.


admin January 5, 2012 at 10:33 am

Thank you all for the correction. In doing so, you have bolstered my original contention that one cannot accurately presume to know the race of someone merely using the identifiers “urban, young, and gangster”.

For those who assert that the word “urban” is a euphemism for “black”, it can be in certain limited contexts but I would encourage people to not allow others to hijack the English language and a perfectly good word to mean something potentially offensive. “Urban” means city dweller and the demographics of the largest US cities are definitely not overwhelmingly black. Case in point: New York City (white 44.6%, black 25.1% and Hispanic 27.5%), Los Angeles (white 49.8%, black 9.6%, Hispanic 48.5%) and Chicago (white 45.0%, black 32.9%, Hispanic 28.9%). Statistically an urban dweller is more likely to be white or Hispanic than black.

Data from the 2010 US Census:


kelly January 4, 2012 at 8:08 am

I am British, live in Britain and I can assure you that whatever you google search has told you, chav does not only relate to white people. It is a class issue not a racial one.


Xtina January 4, 2012 at 9:28 am

I didn’t take any kind of mental image from yesterday’s post about the “young urban male”–in fact, I was trying to picture exactly what kind of person that might entail and came to the conclusion that I can think of a lot of different types of people that phrasing could encapsulate.


SingActDance January 4, 2012 at 9:30 am

I did not imply “urban” to necessarily refer to a race, but it was very clear IMO that the OP was trying to classify this young man as “beneath her” with the use of the word “urban”. It seemed (to me) that she was saying “this young man from downtown/the wrong side of the tracks” so to speak started acting rudely. What part of town someone lives (or appears to live) should have no bearing.


Phoebe161 January 4, 2012 at 9:46 am

When I originally read the post, I, too, thought the young man was more of a Yuppie–young urban professional, no ethnic assigned. So here I had this mental image of a young, professionally dressed (suit) male Yuppie acting like a gang-banger-wannabe …


Amanda H. January 4, 2012 at 10:09 am

Kali Ravel, I’m from the States and I, too, pictured a Caucasian. I think it’s from the way the young man went from polite to gangsta-crazy, I saw more of a stereotypical white Eminem-wannabe than anything else. Go figure.


Bint January 4, 2012 at 10:38 am

I’ve always thought of chavs as being our equivalent of ‘poor white trash’; I’ve never heard anyone where I live call anyone black a chav (occasionally an Asian, but only occasionally).

Paris Hilton is a fabulous example of the chav-tastic – imagine ten of her hanging around outside McDonalds drinking cheap cider.


Kali Ravel January 4, 2012 at 12:04 pm

I disagree that being a chav is a class or money issue. They tend to live within certain income levels, but that isn’t what makes someone a chav. To me, ‘chavviness’ is an attitude, containing concepts such as living on jobseekers being a perfectly reasonable idea.

That said, I do suspect that I’m quite close to the issue; I’m the mixed-race result of a teenage pregnancy (stereotypical chavs are white, but have mixed race children), raised by a single mother on a council estate, but there are many attitudes and ideas that I don’t share with the common idea of a chav.


kelly January 4, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Where do you live? I live in London, and chav is certainly used to describe black, white and asian people here – think of the people rioting in August, chav could be applied ot all of them.


Elle January 4, 2012 at 12:19 pm

On the one hand, yes, it is wrong to make assumptions based on racial prejudices. On the other hand, when the LW writes “every stereotypical gangster punk you’ve ever seen on every movie or tv show” you can’t really blame people for jumping to the stereotype in their head (whether a tough black teen, an Eminem wannabe, or some old school mobbed up Italian guy from a Untouchable episode).


Miss Miaw January 4, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Googling ‘Chav’ will produce predominately white people in an image search, but thats because the UK is a predominately white country. You will also get black and asian chavs, but they’ll be rarer, because they make up lower percentage of the population. Going purely on statistics for every 10 chavs, 8 will be white, if you go by colour representation in the country. In the UK we tend not to divide up by colour, we divide up by class and location. So two people from newcastle will stand together against two people from london, regardless of their colour, unless the two people from newcastle are middle and lower class, then they might pair up with the londoner of the same class and stand against each other. There are racists, and there are people that don’t care about class, but thats the general way of it.


Katherine January 4, 2012 at 1:21 pm

I live in the UK and believe me, chavs are not solely Caucasian. The term chav has nothing to do with race and everything to do with an individual’s actions. You cannot accurately define a chav – they don’t all wear Burberry and massive hooped earrings. Someone’s behaviour and attitude is what defines them as a chav, NOT their skin colour.


Snowy January 4, 2012 at 1:32 pm

They were posting from the states; in the states, “Urban” is almost always a euphemism for black or the black culture. It was a reasonable assumption for readers to make.


CaitlinM January 4, 2012 at 4:42 pm

I’ll admit it- my first image was of a black/hispanic young man, but that’s not to say that a white guy couldn’t be this rude. I’d like to think that I’d think this because the great majority of people in my town are either black/ hispanic, as well as “gangsta”, but I can see admin’s point. I’m in the U.S., and “gangsta” stereotypes are of blacks (at least in my area).


Rachael January 4, 2012 at 4:48 pm

I just thought I’d add, that my mother’s friend recently came back from working with a local council in the UK. According to her, the term Chav originated as an acronym stamped onto a person’s file:
Council Housing And Violent. I just think it’s interesting that the term now extends to tasteless wealthy people such as Paris Hilton!


Annyone January 4, 2012 at 5:58 pm

I have definitely heard “urban” used as a euphemism for “black,” seemingly as a way to make potentially racist comments without those comments being perceived as such. That doesn’t necessarily apply to this post, but it’s out there.


G. January 4, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Chav just means wears certain clothes and acts a certain way, pretty much. Just because the internet only has pictures of white chavs, it does not mean that is the correct representation.


Mazface January 4, 2012 at 7:17 pm

As far as I am aware, although the posterboy chav may be considered of white origin, the label itself is somewhat similar to the American descriptor of “hipster” in that it is much more to do with actions and attitudes than anything else. Interestingly, the wiki article doesn’t appear to quote race as an attribute when describing chavs, although I may have missed that as I am on a mobile device. For the record, I’m from an economically deprived area of the UK just a bit away from London, and would happily describe any race as chavvy (albeit not to their face) if the individual’s behaviour fit the bill. I must respectfully disagree with the admin in this case.


anonymous January 5, 2012 at 2:19 am

As I usually do with things that carry similar descriptions, I didn’t really picture a person of any ethnicity – I pictured how that person was probably dressed, but didn’t really envision much in terms of facial features or skin color.

I realize it does happen that people use descriptions like the OP’s to describe people of other races, deliberately to avoid sounding “racist”, but there’s no evidence that this is what that particular OP was doing. I tend to assume the best of people until I have reason not to.

I did get the impression, as someone else said, that she felt this guy was somehow beneath her, “from the other side of the tracks”, or as people said when I was a student,”ghetto”. But that’s not racism. Classism, maybe, not not racism…and there’s not really enough evidence to say she’s that, either, regardless of the impression I got.


Bocleo January 5, 2012 at 3:17 am

The term Chav does not originate from Council Housing and Violent – it comes from a Romani word meaning boy or child or youth.


Enna January 5, 2012 at 11:41 am

I have to say I didn’t acutaly think of the person in the car parking space as white or black or any particular race. That may sound odd but just couldn’t picture the person as a particular race.


Kristin January 5, 2012 at 8:53 pm

I don’t think the story was set in Britain, they use 999 and the story writer mentions 911, so… there’s that.

I also didn’t presume any race when I read the story. But I work in retail, so I’ve seen people of a lot of races be jerks. 🙂


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