Prime time racism

Prime Time Racism on British television has reared it’s ugly head again, this time on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing show. Contestant and potential future host, Anton De Beke called his Asian partner, Laila Rouass ‘a paki’. Whether it was a slip of the tongue (possibly), an ill conceived joke (mmmm), just plain public schoolboy ignorance (probably), or just someone showing their true colours, it went down like a lead balloon. The news media quickly got wind of it and the BBC, that TV station that we all seem to pay for but have no say over (like taxes), acted quickly to brush it under the carpet. Du Beke apologised, Rouass accepted. Storm in a teacup over, right?


The public were unhappy and phoned the BBC in their hundreds to complain. Celebrity whites and Asians added their two pence worth to the debate, as did some famous blacks, by providing some ‘useful’ soundbites. Cries of ‘Double standards are afoot!’and ‘He should be sacked!’ dominated the papers for a few days. What about Carole Thatcher who was sacked for saying Golliwog?said The Sun newsaper, and that football bloke, Ron Atkinson, who used the term ‘lazy nigger! They got sacked for their badly timed use of the English language, so why not this guy? They were baying for De Beke’s blood but the BBC refused to be dictated to by the ‘moral’ majority.

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There seems to be a belief that racism just vanishes over time, like a bad smell in a ventilated room. But how the hell can something just disappear? Where does it go? If there is one thing I learned from a semester doing Advanced Quantum Physics at University, it was that matter doesn’t disappear, it just takes on another form. So a racist who cannot open his mouth to air his true opinions becomes a frustrated, aggressive individual who perhaps secretly vents his anger on the innocent non-white people who work under him (is that why I didn’t get that promotion?) or worse still channels that anger into something positive and gets into politics perhaps eventually running his own right wing party, followed by like-minded and frustrated people.

Is that where the BNP came from?

Unless you challenge something it cannot even begin to disappear. Racists, famous or otherwise, and their views must be challenged not hushed up otherwise their views will simply remain the same and the knock on effect of this is one where children are taught the ill thought out beliefs of their parents. Now I am a realist, and in my world everyone is ‘pro what they know’. In my time on this earth I have probably laughed at jokes about whites, Asians, Chinese and a whole manner of nationalities in between. I laugh because I find that kind of observational humour funny but I will also chuckle at jokes about Nigerians, Jamaicans and anyone else. If this makes me a racist the I will voluntarily surrender my Benetton card.

We fear what is different before we embrace it, finding humour where possible and there is nothing wrong with this – it’s a perfectly human response to the unknown. If someone explains something to us or allows us to experience another culture we are in a better position to understand and perhaps, accept it. Where a lot of people cry racism it may actually not be the case and I don’t think anyone really understands what racism is anymore.

Inflammatory headlines in the media probably do not help.

When I was at school there were very specific forms of racism: generally the whites hated the blacks and the Asians, blacks hated whites but tolerated Asians, Asians tolerated whites but hated blacks and the Chinese kind of worked around everyone else.  The terms Negroid, Caucasoid and Mongoloid formed the basis of this racism and so the term race was synonymous with having certain features like thick lips, slanted eyes and big noses. As time has gone on racism has been used to describe hatred between different nationalities and even areas within a country.

To be honest, a Brit hating a Frenchman isn’t really racism to me.

In a society where we regularly laugh at and ridicule things that are different, isn’t laughing at another race just that – just laughing at something different. I find many cultural differences amusing but would I say them out loud even though they are funny? Hell no, not unless I was surrounded by like minded souls! Funnily enough I had a weird conversation with a white guy who was doing work on my house. We got to talking about holidays and he told me he regularly went to Jamaica and loved it out there. So far so good. The conversation then turned to where he lives and he informed me proudly that his area was full of Africans. He then told me, whilst laughing out loud that he and his friends called them ‘spearchuckers’ and ‘kaffas’. He said these things to me, a black man, and seemed very comfortable saying them.

It finally clicked that he assumed I was a Caribbean and therefore anti-Africans, like him.

The realisation that I was in fact an African forced him to reassess his beliefs on what he thought  ‘Africans’ looked and behaved like. In short, he got an impromptu education which helped him to review his opinions, not the  ‘savage’ beat down of his ignorant imagination, which would have only reinforced his views. Does any of this make what Mr Du Beke said acceptable? Probably not for those who are offended and hurt by his comments. However it can offer some pause for thought on what drives bigotry and perhaps even  an alternative moral platform to stand on before you decide for yourselves.

Ignorance is bliss only for those who are ignorant. Anon


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