…is a phrase you know is going to be followed by the most racist comment you’ve heard for a while. And it seems we are in a constant battle with the “racist” card being played all the time.
Only this week we have seen how Benedict Cumberbatch got himself into trouble for using the word “coloured” – a word that Nelson Mandela always used about the black population of South Africa – in an interview when trying to support the widening of acting roles to all ethnic backgrounds where possible. Thankfully David Oyelowo came to the defence of Benedict, but you wonder whether the rise of the political right, BNP and UKIP are making us panic over everything we say.
Obviously this is not condoning racism in any shape or form as it is wrong to discriminate or denigrate those from a different ethnicity purely on their skin colour or country of origin – the UK is a mongrel nation anyway. Anyone who has seen the crap that Nigel Farage, Nick Griffin or the English National League spouts, it’s common sense to ignore it but I think it makes everyone panic about everything they say. For example you can’t discuss religions, immigration or even awards ceremonies without it becoming a problem.
On hearing the nominees for this year’s Brits the group Clean Bandit commented that said the dominance of “white boys” in the main categories was “a bit weird and a problem”. Why? If the best artists this year just happen to be white why is it a race issue? They suggest that MNEK, Labrinth and Kwabs should be nominated, but is it those three or Sheeran, Ezra and Smith who have been sharing the number one position in the album chart over the last few months? It should be on merit not on making it equal regardless of ability.
The Oscars were exactly the same with an all white acting contingent, but I could as easily argue that Jennifer Aniston was snubbed as much as any actor of ethnicity. Anyway when did we start taking award nominees as our guide to society’s moral compass or race relations? I am not saying there is not an issue – there obviously is – but you can’t blame Eddie Redmayne or George Ezra for being white, because that’s racist…
The main issue that these types of things bring up is that those behind the scenes in the entertainment industry need to stop seeing roles as ethnic specific unless the original text states it has to be a certain face. Producers and casting directors, label managers and talent scouts need to get the best talent on screen and in recording studios regardless of race; that’s where the issues lie.
Racism is alive and well and we have seen over the last few months in places like Ferguson in the US that it’s not something that has been “fixed” even fifty years after Martin Luther King and the election of the first black president. We need to stop trivializing the issue by pointing at bauble-giving ceremonies and shouting “racist” – instead let’s deal with the issue in the playground, in our communities and in our day-to-day lives. The only way we truly stop casual racism being a social norm is by challenging it wherever it appears.
By taking control back from the idiots and addressing the issues honestly rather than “controversially” we would see the political right lose their grip on the electorate and the issue. We do need to talk about immigration – of course we do – but we need to do it based on fact not on emotion. We need to be honest enough to say that a fully open door policy to immigrants cannot be maintained as our public services are being stretched to breaking point in some places. I can’t go and live in Australia or the US just because I turn up on their doorstep – we need to consider a more rigorous policy without race relations being an eggshell minefield.
Being honest and being racist are two different things – stop looking for the racist slant to a story and look for a solution to the problem if it exists. As always educating the ignorant will do a lot to redress the balance in this issue.