20 April, 2009
Call a spade a what?
...a grumpy old git who is quite prepared to call a spade a black bastard.It occurs to me that this is perhaps a little too terse for its own good, and is likely to attract the wrath of the Righteous. I have been meaning to post a gloss, elaborating what I mean by this pithy little pun.
The Righteous have duly pounced, in the guise of Epping Forest BNP Watch, tireless scourge of the fash in North East London. EFBNPW (if I may be so familiar), avoids addressing the issues in a comment thread on Harry's Place by picking on the phrase as an ipso facto demonstration of my vile wrongness, a little ad hom. diversionary tactic commonly deployed by people who are losing an argument.
If the reader will indulge me, I will simply cut and paste here my own follow-up comment on Harry's Place, seeing as wot I have already wrote it.
I will leave you with a little anecdote illustrating the difference between non-racism and anti-racism.
As ever you distort to suit your own tunnel-visioned agenda.
I didn’t say I like to call a spade a black bastard, I said I am now prepared to call a spade a black bastard. There is a difference - but then you don’t really do nuance, do you?
Apart from it being quite a good pun, the point I intended by that compact phrase is this:-
For the past 40 years a pervasive cult of Anti-Racism (as opposed to non-racism, which is an entirely different matter) has applied in this and other “Western” societies. It has assumed almost the status of a second state religion and carries massive social pressure towards compliance. The Anti-Racist religion encourages “people of colour” to view themselves as perpetual victims and it bullies “people of pallor” into accepting the role of guilty oppressor, forever called upon to offer apology and reparation.
In this environment it has become unacceptable for a White person to speak even slightly negatively of a Black person, however much the latter may deserve it, without being condemned as a racist - in itself a socially fatal stigma - and quite possibly incarcerated into the bargain. A Black person can do no wrong, any wrong that he does commit being a justified response to oppression.
I have finally broken free of that yoke. I continue to interact with Black and Brown people as individuals, taking each one as I find him. Some, in my long experience, are diamond geezers and some are indeed bastards, while most, as you would expect, fit somewhere in between.
But I find I am no longer cowed into pretending that a man is not a “bastard” just because he is Black and that as a White man I must make due allowance for his victimhood.
Just for you, Sunshine, and just for the duration of this comment, I will restore the final clause of my sentence which I elided for improved rhetorical effect:
… a grumpy old git who is quite prepared to call a spade a black bastard, if he clearly deserves that appellation.
Around 1975 I was working as an office wallah. In those days, while there might well have been an ashtray on every desk, there was no computer. A large office building might have a room tucked away somewhere with a couple of mainframe terminals, but that was your lot. Most internal communications were hand-written, and the equivalent of today's email thread would be a stack of A4 or A5 sheets of manuscript, held together with India tags, and moved around by frequent internal mail deliveries. (If you've ever encountered reams of blank A5 with a hole punched in one corner in the forgotten dusty recesses of the stationery cupboard, that is what the hole is for.) More formal documents were drafted in manuscript and sent to the typing pool for typing up.
The typists were expert at deciphering poor handwriting but on this occasion the chairman's amendment to the minutes I had sent for typing had defeated the young lady. (Hint: when drafting minutes, always include a couple of deliberate minor errors. This allows the chairman to demonstrate that he has read and approved the draft by correcting them, but leaves the substance of your draft intact.)
I reported to the superintendent of typists, who pointed out the young lady who was doing my work. In front of me were about 20 young women sitting at small desks arranged in a 5×4 layout. It wasn't absolutely clear at whom she was pointing, so I sought clarification.
"Do you mean the Black girl?"
In my non-racist naïveté, this seemed perfectly reasonable. Of the 20 typists, 19 were White and one was Black. (This was 1975, remember, there were a lot fewer Black people around.) It was her most salient feature in that particular context.
But this was the era of Anti-Racism. You will be familiar with the concept of "social temperature", of some transgression getting a cold response, a chilly reception. It was as if an Arctic blast had blown through the room. The chill was almost physical.
Anti-Racism had promulgated the concept of "colour-blindness". In intent, this was simply a matter of non-discrimination: when, for example, recruiting someone for a job, you should be "blind" to their "colour". As it worked out in practice, colour-blindness came to mean not seeing colour. You actually had to pretend not to notice someone's ethnicity. In practice, not discriminating against Black people came to mean pretending that they were White, a frankly bizarre inversion of the intent.
So when I referred to the young lady's ethnicity, treating it simply as a salient and matter-of-fact distinguishing feature so that I could identify her within the group, it was as if I was drawing unwelcome attention to a physical disfigurement. It was as if I had said, "Do you mean the ugly fat tart with the squint and the goitre?" The pernicious cult of Anti-Racism had produced the effect of Black ethnicity being seen as an unfortunate condition that polite people didn't mention or even notice.
It was a concept I struggled with. But one learns to fit in and soon I was not noticing people's colour, even when it was relevant, and indulging in righteous circumlocution with the best of them. A wise man does not stroll down the Falls Road shouting "Fuck the Pope!"
It is a perversity which persists to this day, but I celebrate the fact that I am now free of it. I am happy to call a spade a spade, and if he is a bastard I'll call him that as well.
Oh, and just for good measure, Fuck the Pope! (Under the rules of PC, I am actually allowed to say that because my great-grandparents were Belfast Catholics.)
And in breaking news, it seems that the Epping Forest BNP Watch blog has gone invite-only. Oh dear. Can't take the heat, perhaps?
As far as Harry's Place goes, the best thing is to chip in occasionally with the odd comment noting the hypocrisy of the anti-racist cause. Alas, it's like trying to get blood out of a stone, and you will invariably pick up some groundless ad hominem attacks along the way. It doesn't hurt just to remind 'them' of their 'righteous' casuistry though.