I was leafing through Counting Cats this evening, something I should do more often. I’ve blogrolled them but their feed doesn’t seem to like my reader. Anyway, I came across the most sensible post on racism I’ve ever read, especially this paragraph:
I do believe that over the years race-relations (I hate typing that) have got better in this country. They have because we’ve just got a lot more mixed-up. You rent a house from a Sikh and he’s OK*, you date a Jewish girl and she’s cute, the Indian doctor sorts you out fine, you work with a Bangladeshi and have a laugh with the lad, there’s a black guy on your five-a-side team. That’s how it works. It is bottom-up and not top-down. It is the innumerable interactions of civil society and not quotas and schemes and plots out of self-contradictory things like the Communities Department.
It’s Mr. Rigsby isn’t it. He has all sorts of pre-conceptions about the black feller living in his house, but over time he develops an affection for him. He still ribs him about coming from the jungle and all sorts of things that get the modern-day Righteous in an apoplexy, but over time it just becomes part of the banter, and they both give as good as they get. In fact, picking back at Rigsby for his insecurities is objectively speaking probably far more cruel, but it was all shown in good spirit. This was the seventies, and it was perfectly acceptable then.
Compare that with now. Not only would it be impossible to make that show now, but the fact that that sort of relationship between people is now proscribed probably makes it much more awkward anyway. I even feel it. Me, primary school at least 30% ethnic minority children I should be (and was) supremely comfortable among people of different cultures, and yet over the past decade it has started to seem much more difficult. So many things you “shouldn’t say.” So many things that may cause offence. And yet, in my late teens and early twenties, I didn’t worry. I just assumed that people I was talking to knew I didn’t mean any harm, and by and large they did. If I said something that did offend them they would tell me themselves (it didn’t happen very often) and out of courtesy I’d refrain in the future. What a simple time. There wasn’t any of the second-guessing we white folk are compelled to do nowadays.
It hasn’t worked either, has it? The BNP is getting council seats regularly now, and sent a couple of bods to Brussels. And check this out, I got sent this joke today by text message:
Copper on the beat sees a coon jumping on roof of a car. Calls 4 back up. Says “theres a big fucking nigger dancing on top of a car”. HQ ‘says you cant use language like that on radio. Use PC police terminology’. Ok he says. ” ZULU TANGO SIERRA.”
Ten years ago, I rarely heard jokes like that. It was a taboo. Now I get at least three racist jokes a week sent to my phone, usually much more offensive than that. You should see some of the ones about Haiti I’ve been sent. Racism is getting more acceptable again, and I put the blame for this squarely at the door of those who sought to defeat racism. By over-egging the pudding they have made it worse, because now it’s subversive and “cool.” It’s not your out of touch old grandfather anymore, and it’s not even kind-at-heart Mr. Rigsby. Now it’s some sort of cross-burning Fonzy, showing you his motorcycle and just waiting for the right moment to get out the rope. And that’s far worse.