The cops say sorry for using an insensitive expression – but who laid the complaint?

Alf has learned another lesson in how to be PC: he must not call people “half-caste”, no matter how appropriate that expression might seem.

The lesson this time comes from the cops, who are saying “oops, sorry” after being chided for calling a missing woman a half-caste.

It seems they issued a statement yesterday saying they held fears for the safety of a 48-year-old woman missing from Auckland’s Te Atatu since Saturday.

So far, so good.

But the police then used what turns out to be an indelicate, insensitive and otherwise objectionable expression.

They described Francis Maree Manufui as “half cast [sic] Samoan/European”.

The buggers at Stuff are obviously feeling somewhat smug, because (a) they know how to spell it correctly, which is with an “e” on the end, and (b) –

Stuff did not use the term in its story.

Oh, what goody-goody two-shoes.

But next thing you know, the cops are issuing an apology.

In a statement later, Police Chief Media Adviser Jon Neilson apologised for the statement issued in the name of West Auckland Police spokesman Kevin Loughlin.

Neilson said it was an “incorrect ethnic term”.

“On behalf of Police and Kevin we apologise for this error.

“It is not an acceptable term and we acknowledge and apologise for any offence caused.”

But obviously the words did not cause offence to Ms Manufui because when the apology was made she was still missing.

Police say she was last seen on Saturday when she told friends at the Auckland City Mission that she may go to Hamilton by bus.

That evening she spoke to staff by cellphone at the residential facility saying she was in nearby New Lynn and that she was on her way home.

They later called her again repeatedly but there was no answer.

Police and family have fears for her safety.

Accordingly, it seems reasonable to suppose, it was not Ms Manufui who complained.

Wikipedia – by the way – says the term half-caste is used to describe people of mixed race or ethnicity.

Caste comes from the Latin castus, meaning pure, and the dervative Portuguese and Spanish casta, meaning race. The term originates from the Indian caste system, where a person of ‘lesser’ or half-caste would be deemed to be of a ‘lower class’.

But Alf had his attention drawn to a survey among mixed-race people in Britain of their preferences when it comes to terminology and classification.

…On issues of terminology, the salient general term of choice amongst respondents was ‘mixed race’.

The only other terms that attracted significant support were ‘mixed heritage’ and ‘mixed parentage’. Very few preferred ‘dual heritage’.

Respondents identified eleven different terms as offensive, most frequently ‘dual heritage’, ‘half-caste’ and ‘mixed origins’.

The reasons for the dislike of ‘dual heritage’ focussed mainly on its limitation to two groups.

‘Half-caste’ was regarded as pejorative by several respondents, on the ground of partial recognition & historical connotations.

Fascinating.

Actually, Alf imagines he would not have been too wounded, if people had called him a half-caste, even though he isn’t.

On the other hand, the Stuff report today says IHC services are concerned because the missing woman is unlikely to be taking her medication.

That’s where Alf would have become offended – knowing that the world knew he was not taking his medication.

And come to think of it, is it okay for the world to know the missing woman is intellectually handicapped?

Or should that be a matter for a police apology, too?

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