11 June, 2011


Yo Dude!

Joseph Harker never disappoints. His piece in last weekend's Observer in the ongoing series Whitey is the One True Racist is a typically rambling, inconsistent affair which is difficult to make sense of, but the title supplied by some anonymous sub gives us a little clue: "Being black and middle class doesn't mean you face less prejudice".

Joseph's thesis appears to be that even when Black people achieve "respectable" status as entrepreneurs, professionals, academics or whatever, White people continue to treat them with disdain, looking beneath the veneer for the underlying happy-go-lucky incompetent Sambo beneath. As if we had fully expected Lord Taylor to have emerged from Southwark Crown Court after being sentenced for fiddling his parliamentary expenses and then to have responded to journalists' questions by giving a big toothy nigger grin and break dancing on the tarmac while calling out, "Yo man! Screw dem motherfuckers, I don' give a shee-it!"

Well, Joe, my old china, my man, bruv, blood, wha'evah innit, I've had a fair bit of experience at being a middle-class White professional encountering Black persons of similar status and I can tell you that when I meet such a person in a business context or any other situation where ongoing interaction and a degree of mutual reliance is anticipated, the unbidden thought which starts nervously pacing up and down at the back of my head is not
"I do hope this presumptuous jungle bunny doesn't revert to type and start limbo dancing under the table."
"I wonder if this is yet another Black guy with a massive victimist chip on his shoulder; how soon can we expect the race card to be played?".
In his piece, Joe offers the fortuitously pertinent example of Lewis Hamilton's recent very tentative flirtation with the race card when asked about his spate of penalties and punishments from the FIA. Joe thinks that this is evidence of Hamilton being picked on by the White racing establishment for being an uppity nigger poking his nose in where it ain't got no godamn business. I say it's more likely to be what it appears to be: a case of an aggressive, ambitious young driver pushing his luck too far and getting his knuckles rapped.

For Hamilton to succumb to the temptation to play the race card would be a shame: it does neither him not the sport any favours. Hamilton is a competent and talented young man who has been badly served by the diversity-obsessed media, by Black pressure groups indulging in frankly rather distasteful (and racist) triumphalism, and by the usual posse of political media whores.

So let's follow it through. What would happen if Hamilton's "Is it because I is Black?" moment was allowed to develop? Cue heavy-duty ranting from the usual suspects and pressure groups. Would the FIA, political animal that it is, start going easy on Hamilton's transgressions out of fear of the inevitable accusations of racism and for a quiet life? Would Hamilton's White colleagues, conscious of this biased treatment, begin to resent him? Would teams, mindful of potential conflicts, start to discourage emerging Black drivers? Cue demands for informal quotas and consequent suspicions that Black drivers are token ethnics.

And so it goes on, round and round. Nobody wins.

Joe's mistake is to assume this sort of situation is all Whitey's malevolent fault. I don't think it's necessarily any "side's" fault; it's just a feedback loop. Black people, as a newly arrived minority, encountered suspicion and xenophobia from the established population. That happens, in fact it's probably par for the course. Black people resent this, and their grievance is stoked by interested political groups, including White liberals. The White majority, including those well-disposed or neutral towards Blacks, begin to find too many Blacks are resentful and forever on the look-out for perceived slurs and discrimination. The White majority loses patience with this and begins to shun Blacks, cuing yet more discontent.

So it goes. The bottom line, Joe baby, is that this isn't my problem. If I have become just a wee bit leery of "persons of colour", it's because the experience of 40 years of working life tells me that they are just too much trouble to bother with. And if you are very unlucky, one small slip in deed, word and yes, quite possibly even thought, can ruin your career. After all, Sarah Kennedy may be bit of a loose-tongued lush, but who'd have thought she'd be convicted of the previously unknown crime of albedoism?

Personally I can't be arsed.

"And if you are very unlucky, one small slip in deed, word and yes, quite possibly even thought, can ruin your career."

Funnily enough, I was just discussing 'whatever happened to Sarah Kennedy?' in the office last week, mainly because everyone is united in their loathing of her replacement.

Like Carol Thatcher, she seems to have become a 'non-person' as far as the Beeb's concerned.

Yes, compare & contrast the treatment of La Thatcher / Ms Kennedy with the Beeboids handling of Hardeep Singh Kohli.

Removed from the execrable One Show but rehabilitated inside a year - including being allowed to write for the Beebs hardcopy version (the Graun).

Had CT been a a person of less pallor (or full blown turban-ite) perhaps she'd have fared similarly well?

Oddly it doesn't seem to have set the squawking sisters at the G. off either ?!?

Technically isn't LH a half-caste and not a full 'black'.

Having worked for a large London based organisation since the late 80s I would agree with all your points, while adding one small benefit I have observed of working 'with' those of a darker hue.

As the number of ethnics employed grew over the 90s it was noticeable that a higher percentage of them were not 'quite up to it'. At the beginning in the early 90s this meant disciplinary hearings, obviously lack of promotion, and occasionally dismissal.

By the mid-nineties with the arrival of New Labour and stricter 'anti-racism' employment laws management faced a problem in that there was no way to legally force certain members of staff to work to the same standards without cries of 'Racism'!

Their solution: to over employ to reduce the workload and generally drop standards all round. The result being that life became very much easier to the extent I can say that come the late 90s it was a case of more play than work, and I'm ashamed to admit the last ten years or more has been a 'total doss', as they say.

"Technically isn't LH a half-caste and not a full 'black'."

That does seem to be part of his problem. Harker seems to have major identity "issues" which he responds to be identifying very aggressively with his Black half.

It's not an inevitable outcome. Kelley Holmes and Sunder Katwala (half Irish, half Punjabi) seem to cope perfectly well with their mixed origins.

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