Archive for racism

Television…what a great invention!

Posted in 1 with tags , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2010 by prekosifa

I was having a pretty enjoyable Bank holiday today. I  had my son for the weekend, which meant Playstation, play fighting and lots of snacks and it was my mum’s birthday so that meant chocolate cake, fizzy drinks and checking out her latest electronic gadgets, (bit of a techno geek my dear old mum!); and I was looking forward to an evening of quality television, courtesy of whichever channel could produce the goods. I have always enjoyed Bank Holiday programming, a bit of the old with a bit of the new, and films I would never dream of seeing at the cinema, suddenly became something to look forward to seeing with a barrel of popcorn and some fizzy pop!

So, after watching Steve Martin in Cheaper by the Dozen Two, yes they did make another one! I cooked and ate some dinner and then sat down to watch Eastenders, a guilty pleasure of mine. (For you guys overseas think of it like any regular American soap opera minus the model like men, uber beautiful women and fantastical storylines!). .But it was the programme that came on afterwards that really caught my attention. ‘Joanna Lumley tracing the Nile’, was exactly what it said on the tin, Joanna Lumley, that amazing sixties, seventies, eighties, nineties and noughties TV actress, famous for her roles in the Avengers, (tight catsuit), and Absolutely Fabulous (boozy floozy!), travelling the length of the Nile, and giving her opinions, thoughts and observations along the way. It was beautifully filmed, wonderful to watch and a real learning experience for many out there who have never travelled to the ‘Dark Continent’, and I use that term, as full of as much sarcasm as I can muster on this one dimensional computer generated page. You see there was no difference between this show and the historical accounts of the rich, ignorant white male explorers of the 18th century.

As I watched I heard of places named after the white people who had found them. Lake Victoria, Lake Albert, lots of other European names in a place that, last time I looked, was still in Africa! I often wondered what the local people of these regions thought about that. Should I not be offended that my family’s continent of origin is ridiculed in such a way? Whatever happened to respect? At one point, the lovely and oh so very British Ms Lumley, was in Uganda and blamed the mass poaching of the wild animals on Idi Amin, who apparently made it hunting season all the time when he was in power, (no question though of the thousands of white poachers who capitalised at the same time).

Highly Dubious or Heavily Distorted?

Look, I am not saying that there is a racial bias here, I am SHOUTING IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS! Fair enough, I understand where I am located, but is it too much to ask for just a little bit of balance. Yes Africa is the land of wild animals, exotic rivers and people dress like something out of a Tarzan film, but there are also thousands of cities and towns that are as modern as any place in the UK or the US. I get angry because children like my son, will see this kind of programme, and automatically will form an opinion in his malleable mind, as will his schoolfriends. Children can be heartless little fuckas at the best of times and many of them in this country are given the ammunition to be just that froma  bvery young age. Kids believe what they see on the television as do most Sun, Daily Star and Daily Mail reading adults! Do we really think that portraying certain countries in specific lights has no effect ar all on anybody? Yes I am bitching right about now, but this is serious!

Another programme I saw last week was about Nigeria, the country where my father is from. What we got, again from the BBC I guess still doing its bit for ‘Britannia’, was an image of a country full of thieves, poverty and slums. Now I am not saying that these people did not have a valid reason to be in front of the camera, I just think, in fact, I know that there is a hell of a lot more to that country than was depicted on my 32 inch high definition screen. Lagos is a city; people live in houses and apartments, go to night clubs, museums and even take afternoon tea! I am all for an image of any country as long as it is balanced, and when it comes to places in Africa especially, I am calling for fairness across all media. Tell it like it really is and balance the fuckin picture for once because I am sick and tired of seeing and paying for this shit, and then having to explain to my son that things are not really like that.

Phew! Okay rant over for now. I think maybe it was due to a combination of seeing Avatar…again, Pocahontas 2 and Atlantis The Lost City in quick succession. Three Disney films that, I might add, had exactly the same plot and premise. Finally I know Disney’s secret, tell the same old story again and again by simply changing the main characters. Hmmm! now that sounds like a familiar tactic, I wonder where I have come across it before…

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Avatar – Great film or a history lesson?

Posted in 1 with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 11, 2010 by prekosifa

I went to see the long awaited and highly anticipated film, Avatar, by James Cameron the other day. I wasn’t going to. I have never been one to jump on the bandwagon of a so called must-see movie since watching the 3rd, and weakest, instalment of the Matrix trilogy many moons ago. Anyway, I succumbed to the temptation of a theatrical treat when my daughter, son, brothers, various friends, various newspapers and even Jonathan Ross went on and on about how good it was. I bought my ticket, smuggled in popcorn, drinks and a packet of Minstrels, (have you seen the prices of cinema food!), and eagerly awaited the opening credits, along with the rest of the people in the packed auditorium.

When I left, I was very impressed.

I finally understood what all the hype was about and realised that like Jurassic Park, Matrix (the 1st one), and Terminator before it, this was a film that would change the way we viewed films in the future. The special effects were amazing, the attention to detail so specific as to be unbelievable, (in fact at times I forgot I was watching a ‘cartoon’). I was amazed.

About an hour later the effect wore of. There was something else lying behind the whole thing that troubled me. A few years ago I probably wouldn’t have noticed but now, as I near my fortieth year on this earth and am infinitely wiser than I used to be, it hit me like a slap from an angry ex!

The story was a piss take!

A beautiful world full of wonderful but strange characters; the immense material wealth that these people were ‘unknowingly’ sitting on, angering a ‘race’ of people who ‘knew’ better; the lack of respect these people had for the natural order of things; the heavy handed tactics they employed to get what they really believed was theirs to have; the infiltration of these people by people pretending to be friends, with an ulterior motive; the great white chosen one who was to be the saviour of this ‘new’ world. It all amounted to a story that we had all seen, heard about and witnessed before.

Show me the difference between Pandora and any country in Africa when the settlers came. Show me the difference between the antagonists in this film and the colonialists from back in the day. In fact, show me the difference between the white hero of this movie, Jake, and Tarzan!

Pandora looked different in black and white!

This is a film that ‘white’ people will love because it excuses all of the bullshit they did in the past to indigenous populations in Tasmania, Australia, Sierra Leone, America and countless other countries. The pursuit of diamonds, oil, sugar and whatever else was valuable led to the loss of countless lives and hushed up atrocities. The lessons that should have been learnt then were not learnt and it still goes on today in places like Nigeria and Afghanistan. A lack of respect for the people of these countries is compounded by the heavy handed tactics that are used to acquire what is wanted by any means necessary. Instead of being lauded as a great technological marvel, Avatar could instead have been used as a teaching instrument to show what happens when Western desires outweigh everyone else’s sensibilities.

In watching this film I was left with the image of a race of people who look on all the shit they have done in the past as par for the course, and now, so comfortable are they in the fact that they have buried the past, they recreate the story for the big screen. The antagonists in the film are both the heroes and the villains. Do you get the imbalance or am I standing on a slope? Those first missionaries that went to these countries, perhaps with the best intentions, were in no doubt villains and the worse thing that could have happened to those vastly more superior and intelligent people.

The big problem with this film for me was that the story was simply a rehash of other racist Hollywood fodder from yesteryear. The Navari people needed the help from the ‘great white man’ who not only knew how to fight better, but also got the best girl in the village, was the bravest of them all, saved an entire species from harm, and then in the ultimate act of leniency, didn’t execute the people behind the atrocities, but simply let them go home, their lesson surely learnt! Pass me the sick bag, please!! It was the Lone ranger all over again and I was 7 years old! Question – why would a race of people who have been victimised, murdered, looted and disrespected, be so fuckin’ understanding? – answers on a postcard please!

So I am left divided.

I give props where props are due, the film is something special, an amazing achievement in sound and film technology, but the story, which was really a history lesson on the origins of racism and genocide, instead ended up being a ‘white’ Western re-imagining of their ‘perfect’ world. The only plus point was the strategy used to defeat the colonialisation threat, the element of surprise, after all, who does watch the watcher? Africa, take note.

Avatar 2?

I don’t think so, mate.

Prime time racism

Posted in 1 with tags , , , , , , on October 11, 2009 by prekosifa

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?

Wrong.

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.

Picture 2

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