Black councillor is convicted of racism: Is this the end of racism as we know it?

Shirley Brown, a race campaigner convicted of racism.

A black councillor was convicted of racism yesterday for calling an Asian colleague a “coconut” and this sums up how the modern usage of the term racism has been distorted and diluted by the government arguably removing any real potential to tackle it. Is this the end of racism as we know it by its original definition?

Look in any dictionary and you will find clear definitions of racism. The Oxford English dictionary defines it as “a belief or ideology that all members of each racial group possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially to distinguish it as being either superior or inferior to another racial group or racial groups.”

The Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines it as “the belief that human races have distinctive characteristics which determine their respective cultures, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule or dominate others.” (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2009-03-16)

Note that these definitions include the unique idea that a racist believes his or her race to be superior to others, a concept which has been unique to European racism since the age of empires and colonialism.

It is this very idea of racial superiority which fuelled the growth of scientific racism in the 19th century among Europeans and it can be argued that patterns of scientific racism informs modern debates today regarding immigration, a point which I will return to very shortly.

Shirley Brown, a Liberal Democrat councillor was convicted of racism after referring to an Asian colleague as a “coconut”, a term referring to someone who has abandoned their culture or race, hence being brown on the outside and white on the inside like a coconut.

This exchange of words occurred during a Bristol City council meeting last year when Jay Jethwa, a Conservative Party councillor backed spending cuts for ethnic minority projects, including Bristol City’s Legacy Commission, set up to educate people on the abolition of the slave trade.

It would be interesting to know whether Jay Jethwa also planned cuts or would support cuts regarding the Jewish Holocaust?

After Shirley called Jay a coconut the Conservative Party complained and following a complaint to the police she was prosecuted and convicted of racially aggravated insulting behaviour at Bristol Magistrates Court yesterday.

Brown’s solicitor, Greg Fox Smith commented on the conviction saying, “To have spent all her life championing diversity and community cohesion and she now has a race conviction. It’s extraordinary, particularly while real race hate crimes go unpunished and uninvestigated.” (Roberts: Telegraph.co.uk: 30 June)

A case such as this sets a dangerous precedent for race relations and racism, just imagine a woman accusing another female colleague of being a sell-out, or a gay or disabled person referring to a colleague in the same manner only to be convicted of discrimination? When you look at it from this angle Shirley Brown’s conviction not only wreaks of gross stupidity but it also provokes the question whether this is a deliberate strategy by the government to undermine the original definition of the term racism?

To return to the earlier point about how scientific racism has informed the immigration debates in Britain today. It can be argued that Europeans have an obsession with the birth rates of non-whites in their country. (Read Why the immigration debate in Britain remains racist)

Whether it is the media talking about soaring ethnic birth rates or discussing how some cities will be completely non-white in a few decades you will be hard pressed to find other races with that level of obsession. Yet this obsession has its origins with scientific racism and the ideas that European races should not intermarry with other races and be kept apart.

It can be argued as well that only European scientists have an obsession to seek genetic proof that they are superior to other races. An example of this was when Dr James Watson, a Nobel prize winner and DNA pioneer sparked controversy when he was quoted in the Sunday Times as saying that Africans were inferior to Europeans. (BBC News: October 2007)

The problem with the usage of the term racism is that it has been defined and continues to be defined by Europeans. This is like men defining feminism or heterosexuals defining homosexuality, it simply does not make sense.

It does make sense however, if the intentions is to dilute the original definition of racism and serve to frustrate rather than empower victims of racism.

For some time the British press has been championing the idea that white people were the majority victims of racist attacks. (Read Five racial murders per year says race institute) This was until The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) revealed in a report in April this year that an average of five race murders occur in the UK every year since the murder of Stephen Lawrence in April 1993 by a gang of racists.

The report contradicted earlier media stories regarding white people being the main victims of racist attacks and even questioned why the media had not covered these murders.

The conviction of Shirley Brown is just the beginning. The sad thing about it is that cases like this will continue because few people are now defending the historical battles which the black and minority ethnic communities in Britain has fought for over decades of racist discrimination.

For further research:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/7861998/Real-race-hate-crimes-are-unpunished-says-solicitor-of-black-councillor-who-called-Asian-colleague-a-coconut.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7052416.stm


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