Thursday, 14 June 2007

The token...racism post

I'm aware this is a touchy subject, and I probably shouldn't even attempt to touch it, but something the other day really pissed me off and I was actually offended. I thought about blogging it, then stopped myself thinking I'd be treading on egg shells...but I just think fuck it - I write about everything else that offends me - why not this? There are some problems that need addressing, and this is one of them. I hope you agree.

The other day me, the boyfriend and his housemate are sitting watching TV. Now Channel 4 has this thing on sometimes in between programmes called 3 Minute Wonder, showcasing up and coming documentary makers, film makers, basically new talent. Anyway, so it comes on and it's this bloke in a cap, diamond earrings in both ears, gold chain round his neck, thick London (god I hate this word) 'street' accent being interviewed by this girl. Bit of a rudeboy this one. So she's asking him questions about his life and and he's answering and telling her about 'the struggle' he faces everyday, about his experience of having a gun drawn on him, about how poor he is and then goes on to say how he can't get a job because 'crackers' don't want to employ him, they don't want to see him and his friends get up in the world, it went on. Now I'm paraphrasing here apart from the speech marked bits obviously, because quite frankly I had to listen really carefully to what he was saying to understand the way he was talking. Anyone not from London probably wouldn't have a clue what any of the slang meant, like whenever I'm at home every other young London-ite seems to be speaking like that, not a problem, that's just how it is. Anyway so most of the way through I was saying things like 'So you have no money, but you have diamond earrings and a designer cap' and commenting on the way he spoke, the things he was saying, i.e. the word 'niggers' was literally being used every other word he said.

This pissed me off.


Channel 4 recently took a person out of Big Brother for saying that same word on TV. Surely guidelines are guidelines and Channel 4's I think are blurred here. I am not for one second condoning the BB idiot's usage of it, I think it's a horrible word that should neither be used as a reclaimed word from one black person to another, or in its original usage from whites to blacks. I think, for all the trouble it causes, it should be made obsolete. Just my view. China Blue did a really good post about this and I agree all the way.

It then annoyed me that he used the word 'cracker' (and the interviewer said 'what do you mean by cracker?') to mean a white person, and furthermore blamed this on his inability to get a job. Nothing to do with the fact that anyone, white or black, would shy away from employing someone who they have difficulty understanding and carries guns around, of course.

Anyway so I'm wondering around the living room chuntering away to myself and just like the above passage I haven't referred to the colour of this man once. It didn't actually enter my mind - I heard and saw someone from London on TV, not a black person from London.

My boyfriend's housemate piped up.

"You're a bit racist really, aren't you Jo"

I stopped in my tracks. "Excuse me? How on earth am I racist? Where does colour come into this?" and relayed the above arguments to him re: his use of the N-word and 'cracker'.

"But white people haven't gone through years of persecution due to their colour, that word was used towards the slaves by white people..." etc

I informed him that I was well aware of the roots of the word, and that his race (he is Jewish) has also undergone persecution in history; but how is this bloke on TV helping matters by using that word and, furthermore, stereotyping white people in return? In fact, if this bloke had been a chav from the Bransholme estate in Hull (who I also can't understand half the time) I would have made exactly the same comments.

My main argument in all of this is that as a white person now, from when I was born in 1984 to now in 2007, I have not been brought up in a segregated society. I've been to several multi-cultural schools, I was brought up in a multi-cultural town and city (London), different colours and cultures is just a way of life for me, it's normal. I'm aware that racism is still prominent and I'm not even going to speculate on the degree of it, but surely the overriding consensus is that people need to move forward.

My question, I put it to the BF's Housemate and to you now, is how is anyone going to move forward when the colour prejudice is evidently working both ways and constantly looking back? Furthermore, how far do you look back before thinking 'right, it's time to move on'? How do Channel 4 allow the word 'nigger' to be used in one context and not another? What needs to change, or is, my BF put forward, society naturally built on generalisations (how else do businesses cater for certain markets and audiences) and so it will never change?

This has been a bit of a long, ranty post, and I feel like I should check that no one was offended...but if this 3MW Bloke can air his opinions to millions on TV, I'm sure my blog will be ok. I'm really interested in your opinions, anyway.

You know what, I'm angry just writing this....


China Blue said...

Now that guy proved my point - if ever there was an example of someone being resigned to what he perceives to be his place, but doing nothing at all to change it except bitching about 'the man keeping him down', this guy was it.

People like that make me ashamed to be black.

bec said...

As a totally white home counties middle class girl I always feel a little, 'something' getting into this argument. I am not racist, I believe that the value of a person has nothing to do with the colour of their skin or the religion that they follow, but this guy and people like him piss me off.

I don't think it's the 'n' word that is the problem here. I think it's the fact that he himself is massively racist... (please note I don't call it reverse racism... because that would just be stupid). It's like a footballer blaming his losing streak on the colour of his team's away strip,

I think it's time Channel 4 got a spanking for allowing THIS kind of racism on it's screen. By allowing the use of 'cracker' it's endorsing this way of thinking... and I as a white middle class home counties girl will not be abused in this way!

It's just the education system failing those who need it the most. Yet another thing the Labour government has left us with... Roll on the general election (ooo, that went in a direction I wasn't expecting!)

the boy who likes to... said...

I just hope that everyone starts to try and follow in the foot steps of what Russell Simmons - Co founder of hip hop label Def Jam - and banning niggger from all songs (as well as bitch and ho)

It'd be nice if there was a level playing field when it comes to rascism, instead of there being two rules, ie which channel 4 are trying to use with the documentary and BB.

Steph said...

You make some very valid arguments. I think some minorities chose to have his type of attitude. It becomes an excuse to not even try and change their circumstances.

The other thing I take issue with is dark skinned Poms and Aussies who try to be all "gangsta" and act like they live in the "hood' when they couldn't be further removed from that place. I know racism exists, i have some Indigenous cousins, I've seen it first hand, but by being proud of this huge chip on the shoulder of the "The man is keeping me down" they are doing themselves no favours and perpetuating stereotypes.

Good post Jo.

London-Lass said...

But, unfortunately, isnt this what Channel 4 is all about? Courting or creating controversy appears to be their remit. And, let's face it, without the outcry that follows a lot of their programmes (or, sometimes, EVEN BEFORE a programme has been aired) they wouldnt get half the audience that they currently achieve (or deserve). The media generally thrives on double standards and creating `fashionable' tele. Channel 4 arent actually there to clamp down on racism (it's just it's very fashionable now to appear to be getting strict with racists - o, and bullying) which is why programmes like the one you watched will still make it through. But this is just my humble personal opinion. And I am very bitter.

Marika said...

Fantastic post on a really difficult subject.

I've tried to comment further but the ol' brain is a bit muddled this morning. Long story short, I don't think you were out of line in the least.

Clarissa said...

But, oh, that young man must surely be very very cool and lucky with the ladies!

In all seriousness, fantastic, well thought-out, well written, and not unduly controversial post.

I don't think I'm rascist, but I'm certainly a hypocrite. I get all up on a high horse about 'the meaning of words only having the power you give them' yet I know damn well there are words (nigga) I shant say.

Jo said...

china blue - that's exactly what I thought when I saw the programme. But it's hard, as a white person, to know if it's a racist view to push his feeling aside. But then I thought he's about my age, we've both grown up without slavery and that scale of discrimination going on - why should either of us be held back by it?

bec - the reverse racism thing really annoys me too, racism is to white or visa versa. I liked the analogy of the footballer blaming losing on his strip. Strange how there isn't a back lash over this sort of discrimination. I think people, like me, are generally too worried to voice their views when it's the other way around.

the boy - I didn't know Russell Simmons had done that - definitely one of the steps forward I was talking about.

Steph - I went to australia a few years ago for 4 months and found a lot of racism towards and from the indiginous people. Australia has some huge aboriginal race issues that need sorting, i think.

londonlass - it does seem that way doesn't it? I really like C4, they show those controversial docs that I like, but like you say they're catering for the shock value. No doubt that 3MW was put on to be controversial - but then why can't a white person be on BB and be controversial and lets see how it plays out? Not a chance.

marika - thanks, it was difficult to know how a post like this would be received!

classisa - thanks for the compliment, I know what you mean - I found it weird writing the word on my blog even when it was enclosed in speech marks and coming out of someone elses mouth!

Venting said...

I commented on this subject on another blog, but basically, there is a double standard. White people can't make racist comments (or they get kicked off TV programs) but black people (and you have to say African American in Canada because we are anal about being PC) are allowed to be publicly racist towards white people. 'Crackers' is an excellent example.

Yes, I'm sure black people face discrimination. But dressing all up gangsta' like isn't really going to help you in your interviews. And you know what? I face discrimination for being a woman and also for being young (I work with military personel). And you know what? I move on. I make a point of working hard and of always doing an excellent job.

Of course, there are still people who think women should only be secretaries, but thankfully, those people are all retiring soon.

Onwards, and upwards.


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