RACISM is probably the most pernicious blight suffered by society worldwide. We might have thought that we’d outgrown all that nonsense by now, but events in the USA have led to the launch of the Black Lives Matter campaign and have exposed a nasty undercurrent of institutional and everyday racism in this country. It is prevalent in our history and in our daily lives and it has to be eradicated. (When we have 12-year-olds allegedly sending vile abuse to footballers on social media, it really is time to have a long, hard look at ourselves.)
Such is the overwhelming desire amongst many people to indulge in very public hand-wringing, usually on Twitter or that Bookface thing, that it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between something causing genuine offence and something that has become an innocent, unknowing target.
To that end, I present your racism primer. Some of the things on this list are real; some are imaginary. See if you can tell which is which…
Golf is racist (the Masters tournament should be renamed); chess is racist (white goes first); statues of Jesus are racist (he’s depicted as a white male); master bedrooms are racist (see golf). As are sticking plasters (colour); two-minute rice (farewell Uncle Ben); Lord of the Rings (depiction of Orcs); coronavirus (BAME people suffer disproportionately); The Simpsons (white actors doing black voices); statues of Mahatma Gandhi (supported the British against the Zulus); overworked nurses letting off steam (doing the haka on social media is cultural appropriation); Kelloggs cereal boxes (specifically Coco Pops, nuff said); front lawns (racist suburbia); mathematics in schools (curriculum doesn’t include issues of identity); Rishi Sunak (fanciable Asian fetish); toothpaste (Colgate is changing the ‘Darlie’ brand which is popular in China and until 1989 was called something not unadjacent to Darlie); opinions (white people either having them or not having them); climate change (disproportionate impact on BAME people); the Oscars (too many white actors nominated); knitting (“fibre artists of colour are taking to Instagram to call out instances of prejudice”); cycling (not enough two-wheeled diversity); air pollution (BAME communities breathe in more fumes than white people); Fawlty Towers (poor old Major); artisan breweries (where are all the black brewers, eh?); pancake mix (Aunt Jemima heads of to the old stereotypes home with Uncle Ben); suffragettes (secret white power manifesto); fish (according to graffiti on Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid statue); Toy Story films (not enough BAME toys); fast food (preponderance of takeaways in BAME communities); classical music (see the Oscars); horse racing (not enough four-legged diversity); white women being nice and/or traditional housewives (reinforcing perceived supremacy); not being racist (trying too hard to be not racist); Anglo Saxons (more white supremacy); Mary Poppins (soot-covered face in chimney sweep scene); jogging (see cycling); Kew Gardens (colonised botanical collections); sandwiches (peanut butter and jelly is an American racial stereotype); dogs (may pick up prejudices from their owners); libraries (promote whiteness); science (unsavoury history behind many inventions); Country and Western music (goes without saying); Scrabble (ability to spell out racist words); yoga (cultural appropriation); wine (not enough wines aimed at BAME people); veganism (“Hitler was a vegetarian”); the white cliffs of Dover (renaming demanded); Thomas the Tank Engine (imperialist sub-texts); Charles Dickens (xenophobic).
Want the really bad news? Every single one of these stories has appeared in print or pixels in the past few weeks. The problem with this is that obsessing with the minutia deflects attention from the big issues. Our fire needs to be concentrated on the real targets – and there are more than enough of those around.