The world has changed a lot in recent times, obviously the global pandemic has torn through life as we know it. Then, as if working from home and not having a haircut wasn’t change enough Black Lives Matter suddenly became an extremely prominent cause, and I daresay, a household name.
I have to admit, I find the change that BLM brings much more agreeable than Perspex screens everywhere and having to queue in the rain to buy a punnet of grapes. However, there are vast swathes of society that do not agree with these changes. When I talk about changes I am not talking about the aims of BLM or complete eradication of racism, I am talking about the mild changes we are seeing. The teams of the Premier League wearing BLM instead of their names, the West Indian Cricket team having the BLM logo on the collar of their shirts, the fact that Little Britain has been taken off air along with Come Fly With Me and episodes of Fawlty Towers and of course the toppling of statues around the world.
As I have scrolled through articles depicting these changes and have made my way through the comments the rhetoric that meets me is extremely familiar and frankly a little boring. If you look at articles to do with BLM being promoted in sport, you will be met with very whiney comments about how we haven’t honoured the NHS enough, or how all lives matter, or how politics should be kept out of sport. Just to be clear I don’t think we shouldn’t honour the NHS, or that all lives don’t matter or that politics should be brought up in sport. I’m not saying I completely disagree with these comments all I know is that the NHS was honoured when the Premier League restarted, only when black lives actually do matter can we say “all lives matter” and equality is not politics and therefore BLM has every right to be a pinnacle part of sporting events, especially because it is during sporting events that we see some of the most awful racist abuse. I did see one comment by a man who boldly, and proudly claimed that This wouldn’t affect him because he “didn’t watch any sports played by coloured people” I had to leave a comment as I was so surprised that people like this still existed, I honestly thought they were extinct.
Then when Little Britain and Come Fly With Me was brought down as well as Ant and Dec apologising for ‘blackfacing’ there was a further wave of comments. “This is beyond ridiculous”, “This is sad and worrying”. As if losing Little Britain was akin to losing the royal family. Then comes more reports of statues being torn down and yet more cries of “you’re destroying our history”.
So, what is to be said about all of this? What is the response, have we eradicated racism by taking down Little Britain and a statue of a slaver? No, of course we haven’t. Did it need to be done though? Absolutely.
I’ll explain why I believe this first step is absolutely crucial, but first a small analogy. I’m not gardener, I’m very uneducated when it comes to trees and foliage etc. I survive by just stringing a few syllables together and saying it confidently enough that people believe that the flower they are looking at is in fact a Binophilipa. (Disclaimer: to the best of my knowledge Binophilipas don’t actually exist). However, put me in an orchard of apple, lemon and orange trees at the right time of year and I can confidently tell you which one is an apple tree, which one is an orange tree and which one is a lemon tree. Not because I am well versed in orchard matters but because I know what an apple, orange and lemon look like and then the jump from identifying the fruit to identifying the tree is not monumental.
Apply that analogy to society. Come Fly With Me, while not actively promoting white supremacy or racism, does mock people from certain Ethnic backgrounds. Ant and Dec ‘blackfacing’ while what they said and how they acted wasn’t racist the fact that they can so freely ‘black up’ is in itself racist. These things that we are seeing happen, the backlash against BLM being on premier league shirts, or the cries to save ‘good british TV’ etc, are signs of a racist undertone. The fact that it is believed we can mock people of different races and it just be classed as ‘a bit of fun’ is a sign of something far more sinister. The fact that there is so much backlash against wearing BLM on football shirts, shows in itself signs of a racist undertone.
The BLM has shone a light on a lot of things that we do as individuals as well as a lot of things that we do as a society. When we hear horrific stories of police brutality or marginalisation, or stories of how extremists have treated black people, our first response can be to recoil and thank our lucky stars that we aren’t like that. The changes that are happening at the moment are showing us that racism is alive in many different spheres. It’s showing us that we can’t afford to be ‘clumsy’ with what we say. We can’t afford to be ‘clumsy’ with the way we act. Little Britain, Come Fly With Me and Ant and Dec dressing as black people, were not anti-black statements, they were clumsy. Therefore, it is right that they come down because there is no room for clumsiness now. Clumsiness says ‘I know racism is bad, but I am not going to try to change who I am, or educate myself on it’. To link to a previous article, clumsiness is calling Africa a country. Clumsiness is asking someone if they speak African, or asking them where they are originally from. Clumsiness is saying that statues shouldn’t be torn down because we are “deleting history”. Clumsiness is saying that BLM should be kept out of sport. Clumsiness is asking protestors to protest at a ‘more convenient time’. Clumsiness is children’s tv shows casting the mayor of a town as a white man and cleaner as a black woman. Clumsiness is making a joke where the punchline is an ethnic minority. Clumsiness is assuming someone wouldn’t understand your point of view because of where they are from. To link it back to my orchard analogy, clumsiness is the fruit of a racist society. Though it may not be obvious, clumsiness is racism.