Tuesday, 3 February 2009

A Neat Display of Privilege

Carol Thatcher has been banned from a BBC show after making a racist remark in the dressing room. By the looks of it, the BBC didn't want to ban her from the show, but had no real choice since she refused to apologise. Her spokesman said:

"Carol never intended any racist comment. She made a light aside about this tennis player and his similarity to the golliwog on the jam pot when she was growing up. There's no way, obviously, that she would condone any racist comment - we would refute that entirely. It would not be in her nature to do anything like that. It is disgusting that we've had a leak of private conversations in the green room - the BBC has more leaks than Thames Water. Carol is mortified that anyone should take offence at a silly joke. She has summarily apologised."

I'm embarrassed to be so stunned by this. I am stunned that somebody would genuinely argue that it's not racist if the black guy really does look like a golliwog. I'm not stunned that she's done the "Well, I'm sorry YOU'RE SO SENSITIVE, you bunch of losers" apology, or that she's done the "I'm the real victim - that was a private conversation" defence. But the whole speech reeks of a privilege that really astonishes me.

Racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and whatever else come, most of the time, from people who say they love the oppressed group in question and are totally all for their equal rights. And because they're all for equal rights, it's fine to call a black man a golliwog if he really looks like one, or call a woman a bitch or a whore if she really is one. And then someone objects, and they are shocked. Oh, come on, they say. Don't be so bloody dramatic. Fight the real enemy, the people who really hate you and aren't ashamed to say it. Go fight them. Leave me and my "silly jokes" alone.

Carol Thatcher is clearly stunned that we have mistaken her for a racist. And I am stunned that people still have to stand up and say: "It is unacceptable to compare a black guy to a golliwog, whether or not you think he really looks like one." And that, I suppose, is my privilege.

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