Posts Tagged ‘David Olasuga’

Right-Wing YouTubers Praise Priti Patel for Wanting to Repeal Blair’s Anti-Hate Speech Legislation

January 30, 2021

The noxious, smirking, ambitious idler Priti Patel was in the noxious Express last Sunday, delighting various right-wing Youtubers with her comments about the laws Blair passed against hate speech. These, she apparently declared, undermine proper free speech and so should be scrapped.

One of those applauding her was Alex Belfield, of whom I have previously blogged many times. Belfield is constantly reviling left-wing activists against racial and other prejudices of being oversensitive ‘snowflakes’. Instead of getting upset and moaning about comments or portrayals they find offensive or hurtful, they should instead grow up, stop whining and get over it. This is more than a bit rich coming from Belfield, as he is very ready to moan about anything which he feels casts unfair aspersions on White folks. For example, a week or so ago he got very annoyed at a sketch in a BBC comedy show, ‘Bamous’, or something like that. The show’s cast are Black, and it seems aimed very much at a Black, Asian and minority ethnic audience. The sketch that raised Belfield’s blood pressure was ‘the Black Broadcasting Corporation’, which portrayed what it would be like, or what it’s cast thought it would be like, if the Corporation’s management were all Black and they casually patronised and humiliated Whites who had suggestions for programmes and wanted to climb up the career ladder in television. Belfield tore into the sketch as yet another example of the Beeb’s ‘woke’ racism against Whites, and yet again demanded that the Corporation should be defunded.

I did find what little I saw of it offensive, and I only saw the clips Belfield included in his video, so I don’t know if this accurately reflected the sketch as it was originally broadcast. But I think the sketch reflected the anger of various Black actors and writers at having their ideas repeatedly turned down by the corporation. The historian David Olasuga said in an interview that he suffered from depression after having his ideas for programmes rejected, while Lenny Henry and others have also criticised the Corporation for not being sufficiently inclusive.

It also struck me that the sketch wasn’t all that original either. Previous comedy series by ethnic minorities have also lampooned White British racism through the same strategy of role reversal. Goodness Gracious Me, the Asian comedy show which ran on BBC 2 on the ’90s with the sketches ‘Going for a Blandi’, in which a group of Asian friends go to a restaurant serving traditional British food. And a friend of mine said he never realised how condescending shows like Great Indian Railway Journeys were about India and its people until Goodness Gracious Me sent it up in a sketch in which they looked at the British railway system making the same type of comments. Not that Goodness Gracious Me was anti-White. It also sent up British Asian culture and the bigoted attitudes of some Asians towards Whites. For all I know, Bamous might do the same to Black culture.

Belfield’s criticisms would also carry more weight if two of his comedy heroes didn’t specialise in racist material. He’s a friend of the notorious Jim Davidson, with whom he hosts a programme on his internet radio show in the week. He also seems to be a fan of the late Bernard Manning. Last week he put up a video praising Mark Lamarr and wondering what happened to the former host of Never Mind the Buzzcocks. The clips he used to show Lamarr’s skills as a interviewer came from a video in which he talked to Bernard Manning. And as older readers are probably all too aware, Manning was infamous for his racist jokes, although he always maintained that he was not personally racist. They were just jokes, right?

But those jokes are really hurtful to the Blacks and Asians, who were the butt of them. Way back in the ’90s Mike and I were on a bus coming home from an evening out drinking. We got talking to one of the other passengers, an Asian lad who’d been sent home from work. He was a waiter in one of the swish restaurants in town. Davidson had turned up for a meal, and the lad had been ordered to serve him. He refused because hated Davidson’s jokes about people of his colour. The manager insisted, the lad refused again, and was sent home. And I’m on the lad’s side and respect him for sticking to his guns against serving someone whose material he found deeply abhorrent.

I’m no fan of Blair, and do think that right-wing critics of the legislation against hate speech do have a point. I think they are stifling a proper and very necessary debate about immigration and race relations. But I also feel that they are also necessary. I think the first such laws in Britain were passed in the 1930s or thereabouts and were intended to stop the demonisation of Jews by Fascists, like Mosley’s BUF. At the same time, the BBC had a very strict code over what could and couldn’t be said on air. There was a list of about 200 words that couldn’t be used by presenters. This included slang terms, such as ‘lousy’, for something that was simply bad or poor in quality, and the crude and insulting terms for people of different ethnic groups. When the Goons started in the 1950s the Corporation also had a list of subjects which were strictly forbidden for comedy. These were religion, the monarchy, disability, the colour question and ‘effeminacy in men’. These prohibitions went a long time ago, especially regarding religion and the royal family, although they remain very sensitive subjects. Issues of race and racism can be lampooned, it seems, but only from the point of view of ethnic minorities or which sends up racism. But Belfield would, it appears, like to overturn this and return television to the days of the 1970s when Manning and Davidson were both telling their jokes on mainstream TV.

If the jokes manning and Davidson told about race had no effect, and people took them as just jokes, then perhaps there’d be an argument for allowing that material back on television. I don’t believe that the producers of Love Thy Neighbour, a comedy about a racist White man who finds out that his new neighbours are Black, were being deliberately offensive or trying to promote racism. But there was much more overt racism then, including jokes going round playground and workplace that really did show a contempt for people of colour. I think one of the issues with racist jokes is that, even if they are meant to be innocuous, they can and do reinforce real racism in wider society.

Speech and the attitudes expressed matter. Sir Alan Burns, the last governor of Ghana, says in his book, Colour Prejudice, that much could be done to tackle racism simply through courtesy and politeness. His book, published in 1948, is clearly very dated, but that observation is undoubtedly very true. The legislation against hate speech, and the attitudes against racist comedy that has accompanied them, are really an attempt to make this courtesy mandatory.

It appears very much to me that Patel and Tories like her want to repeal all of the 1970s anti-racism legislation. The attack on Blair’s legislation against hate speech is just the beginning, and the explanation that they stifle free speech just a pretext. They’d like to drag us all back to the days when businesses could refuse service and employment to people on the grounds of their colour or nationality. When hotels and guesthouses could put signs up in their windows saying ‘No dogs, no Blacks, no Irish’. And when the Tory party could put up posters telling the British public that if they wanted Blacks for neighbours, they should vote Labour. But they should vote Conservative if they didn’t.

Patel’s Asian, and so is potentially one of those affected by such prejudices and the removal of the laws protecting people of colour. She obviously feels she’s exempt because of her lofty position as a government. Or perhaps she feels that British society has changed so rapidly these laws aren’t necessary. I think they are, and no matter how secure she is, others aren’t so lucky. And there is a real danger that the vicious racism these laws are designed to combat will return all too quickly.

For those reasons, the laws should stay and it doesn’t matter how funny some Tories think Manning and Davidson are. The racism the laws are intended to combat is very definitely no laughing matter.

Racial Politics and the Toppling of the Statue of Slaver Edward Colston

June 9, 2020

On Sunday Black Lives Matter protesters in Bristol pulled down a statue of Edward Colston from its plinth in the city’s centre, and threw it in the Floating Harbour. It’s been both local and national news. The local news interviewed a White woman, who had been part of the protest. She was married to a Black man, and as the mother of a half-Black child thoroughly approved of the statue’s maltreatment. In fact, she felt a bit teary and overcome with emotion.

Colston, Slavery and Charity

It’s not hard to see why. Colston was a 17th-18th century slaver and president of the Royal African Society. He made a colossal fortune from the enslavement of Black Africans. As historians and Black activists have pointed out, millions of the enslaved died en route to America and the Caribbean due to the appalling conditions on board the slave ships. Slavers like Colston also responded brutally to slave mutinies aboard ship by throwing their cargo overboard, chains and all, to drown. They also did this if a storm threatened to sink the ship, and they needed to lighten it. That’s shown in the classic 19th century painting of a ship at sea facing an oncoming storm. It was based on a real incident, that of the Zong, and the painting shows the struggling Blacks drowning as a detail.

Anti-racism activists have been campaigning for the statue’s removal for over forty years, ever since the St. Paul’s race riots of the 1980s. Mike wrote a long piece about it yesterday. He, and the peeps, whose tweets he cited, viewed the statue’s fall as good riddance to bad rubbish. He wondered why it hadn’t been done years ago. Some of those commenting were Blacks, like the awesome Kerry-Ann Mendoza of The Canary. They compared the statue to those of Hitler, and described how it had tore them up to go past it. If Colston had only been a slaver, the statue’s removal wouldn’t have been an issue. What complicated the matter is that Colston, who actually spent most of his life in Mortlake in London, gave very generously to charity. He endowed several schools in Bristol, one of which was Colston Girls School. As Mike explains in his excellent article, we also had Colston Day at school. This was a one-day holiday. Some pupils were also called upon to attend a special service at St. Mary Redcliffe church, and received a Colston bun. Mike had that experience. So did I.

Bristol and the Slave Trade

I should also point out here that, like Mike, I also grew up believing that one branch of our ancestral family tree, the Haberfields, had been slavers. That was dispelled last week by the historian David Olasuga on the Beeb’s programme, A House Through Time. Olasuga stated instead that the Haberfield’s made their money as wine merchants. There may have been other branches of the family that were slavers, however. I don’t know. I’ve heard stories that one ancestor was the captain of a slave ship, and that the City Museum has his log. But when I talked to people from the City’s museums, they denied they had any such thing. Bristol did benefit immensely from the slave trade, but, contrary to popular belief, most of the slaves were taken to the Caribbean. Those few that came back to the City were trusted personal servants. As a result, there is precious little in Bristol, apart from the luxurious homes the slavers built for themselves, that is directly connected to the slave trade. When the City Museum held an exhibition on Bristol and the slave trade there were so few objects left over from Bristol’s slave trade, that they had to borrow some from elsewhere. There are written documents, like contracts and ledgers, but museums don’t like putting them on display. Not because they’re trying to hide anything, as some people have alleged, but simply because visitors don’t find them interesting.

Anti-racist Politics in Bristol

There have been petitions over the years to remove the statue. It’s remained, because these campaigns did not achieve a majority. At the last poll, Bristolian opinion was divided half and half. Roughly the same proportion of people wanted the statue to stay as those, who wanted it gone. And not all Black anti-racism activists wanted it removed. Paul Stephenson was one of the leaders of the Bristol bus boycott in the 1960s and 1970s. This was against the colour bar operated by the local bus company, which refused to employ Blacks. When he was interviewed about racism and the slave trade in the city a few years ago, he felt the statue should be kept, but with a plaque pointing out that he was responsible for enslavement and genocide. As it is, the statue is going to be fished out of the harbour, and put on display in the M Shed. One of the arguments for keeping it up is that it serves to educate people about this aspect of Bristol’s history, but as one of the tweeters Mike quotes also says, this comes from people, who really don’t want schoolchildren talk about the dark side of the British empire.

I’ve also no doubt that some of the resistance to tearing the statue down and to some of the initiatives by the local authorities to commemorate Bristol’s involvement in the slave trade and its millions of victims comes from the highly emotive and divisive racial politics in the city. Although Britain has had a Black presence since the Roman Empire, and Bristol has had a Black population from at least the 16th-17th centuries, there has only been a large Black community in Bristol since the mass immigration of the post-War years. The Black community in the inner city has, like those elsewhere, a reputation for drug dealing, prostitution and violent crime. St. Paul’s was a district Whites from outside the area drove through with their windows up and doors locked. Furthermore, some of the demands and accusations made by the community’s representatives were less than tactful.

It’s often asserted that Bristol was built on the slave trade. That’s true, but only up to a point. Bristol did profit very well from the trade, as did many other ports. But Bristol was great trading city before the slave trade took off in the 17th century. We traded with France, Spain and Portugal, as well as Ireland and across the Channel to Wales. And the first slaves sold by Bristol were White Anglo-Saxons bought by Irish merchants. The Anglo-Saxon cleric St. Wulstan visited the city to condemn the trade in the 11th century.

There’s also the problem that some anti-racist activists make unwarranted assumptions about racism and Whites. There’s an automatic assumption by some that if you’re White, you must be racist. That naturally gets peoples’ backs up. One of the Conservative blogs I read years ago quoted an American study that found that police officers tended to become more racist after anti-racist training than previously. I don’t know if that’s true, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was. The automatic reaction of anyone accused of racism, whatever their colour, is going to be resentment and defensiveness. And in the 1980s the Tory papers explicitly claimed that the riots were caused by Black racism. Some Black leaders didn’t help their cause either. I remember an article in the Absurder c. 1984/5 attacking one Black politician – it might have been Paul Boateng – for suggesting that Blacks should have their own autonomous areas. The writer correctly pointed out that this was a demand for segregation and apartheid. Fortunately, the call for separate Black communities went unheeded.

There has also been the problem that the city has devoted funds and resources in combating the poverty, unemployment and crime in the racially mixed inner city areas of Bristol, at the expense of the White majority areas further out. South Bristol was promised a local hospital back in the 1970s, but it was only built a few years ago. Positive discrimination schemes also give more funding to those areas with a large ethnic minority population. This has caused some resentment.

As a result it has seemed at times that the demands for Colston’s statue to be pulled down, and for the slave trade to be commemorated in Bristol, has come from a position of anti-White racism, rather than a desire for racial justice in itself.

Black Separatism and the Name of the Malcolm X Centre

And if you’re talking about the official commemoration of racists, there is the whole issue of the name of the community centre in St. Paul’s. It is, or was called the Malcolm X Centre, after the American civil rights leader. The problem is that Malcolm X’s organisation, the Nation of Islam, is racially separatist. They want a separate Black state, to be formed from a group of Black majority states in the US. In the 1960s they used to hold joint rallies with the American Nazi party. There was an article on this in the Sunday colour supplement for the Independent back in the 1990s. It contained an article written by a White American female photographer, who followed, interviewed and photographed Malcolm X at the time. The article reproduced some of the photos shed’ taken of these rallies. Now Malcolm X didn’t remain a separatist. He later converted to orthodox Islam, and supported integration after he went on the Hajj to Mecca, during which he found that people of all races were fundamentally the same. I think he also took an orthodox Muslim name. There is therefore the problem that if it is wrong to commemorate a slaver like Colston, then why should a Black activist, who also stood for racism and separation, be commemorated?

Conclusion

Colston’s statue had its time long ago. It’s removal, one way or another, was pretty much inevitable. It won’t be missed. The argument for its retention was weakened when the Americans began pulling down the statues of Confederate generals. At the same time, it’s right that Bristol’s involvement in the slave trade and the slaves transported should be commemorated. There’s a whole gallery devoted to this at M Shed on Bristol’s docks. There’s also a slave walk, and a commemorative plaque. Black Lives Matter still has an urgent point. Racism still exists in this country, and Black communities as a rule are underprivileged, poorer with higher rates of unemployment and underrepresented in large parts of industry, society and the arts.

But anti-racist campaigns also need tact and sensitivity. Accusations that Whites in general are racist, or that Bristol must somehow be intrinsically racist because of slavery, just cause more division and resentment.

It leads to embittered Whites giving their votes to the Tories, who will just use them to justify their own racism and destruction of state aid for the disadvantaged regardless of their colour.