I watched Question Time the other night, the one with the racist nut on it and was struck by a comment from one of the questioners in the audience who seemed to have some kind of beef with some of the language being used.
You can see her full comment for yourself here on YouTube, I’ve linked to the specific bit in the video.
But here’s the text of the bit I’m referring to…
The parties must listen because, one of the things, I am sitting here and every time Jack Straw or somebody or one of the panel says ‘Afro-Caribbean’, I am cringing…Afri-CAN Ca-RIB-bean!
Talk about grammar Nazis! I missed the memo where ‘Afro-Caribbean’ was now an offensive term.
I’m not the only to notice this, Mark Easton talks about it more here – Do you speak race?
In a programme where the most right-wing, racist party in the country is being outed as the ignorant idiots they are (I would’ve liked to have seen more serious, policy based questioning personally) this woman has in one foul swop, added a huge linguistic hurdle. How do you start talking about race when you narrow the terminology so greatly?
If she cringes at this, then her everyday life must be excruciating. Is there no room for dialect, accent or other linguistic vagaries? You say to-mai-to, I say toe-mar-to. You say Ca-RIB-bean, I say Cari-BBE-an.
I wouldn’t know how to even begin talking to this woman about race. She’s left me no wiggle-room. I think the BNP play on this PC extremism, “Where will it end?” they’d say.
Race has black areas and white areas, but you know what? There’s also some grey areas where punishment and admonishment are unnecessary because it comes down to personal taste, sense of humour or opinion. It’s not racist, it’s simply that you do not like it, it’s not funny, it’s not your cup of tea.
When I lived in America I was asked, “Are you Australian?”, “Your teeth aren’t too bad”, “You talk kinda funny”, etc. Did I cringe and think they were being blatantly racist? No, I welcomed the opportunity to change their mind or offer an alternative view of the stereotypical Brit, with my stereotypically good old fashioned British self-deprecating sense of humour. As my experience there resulted in me not thinking all Americans are fat and stupid.
If I got all arsey everytime someone asked if I was Australian, then loads of Yanks would think Brits are arsey, miserable sons of bitches…and they’d be right on the evidence they’d experienced!
Then there’s the problem of mixed messages and no general consensus. This woman insinuates that ‘Afro’ is not acceptable, she needs to tell that to the ‘The Afro-Caribbean Millenium Centre. She then needs to speak to Trevor Phillips, the head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and tell him this speech he made is unacceptable and cringe-worthy.
You see the problem, you get yourself in knots. Suddenly an ethnic community are at odds with themselves about how they refer to themselves. How is a majority, or another minority, meant to deal with that?
Does she now refer to British whites as ‘Angle-Saxon-Jutes‘? I don’t know! I don’t know what is correct, I’m confused, I have absolutely no idea what my race, ethniticity or national heritage is according to this woman’s logic.
What did Jack Straw do after all this? Apologise. He revealed his political backbone and immediately apologised. Ask him exactly what he did wrong and I’m sure he couldn’t answer you, but any hint of an ethnic minority questioning his language in matters of race and he immediately backs down.
This woman’s comment harms debate on race and that only adds fuel to the BNP’s rallying fire.
ps. it’s worth watching the clip again as the woman to her right is smoking hot.