Mexicans are “lazy” according to the presenters of Top Gear, 64 percent of Guardian news readers in a poll said that the term “sooty” is not racist but affectionate and Stephen Fry and his guests caused great upset in Japan when they thought it was acceptable to make light of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; so why do British people believe that this warped sense of racial tolerance is actually tolerant?
Listen to David Cameron’s statement about multiculturalism and you would think that Britain and British people are one of the most tolerant countries and people in the world, but ask the average black or ethnic minority person in Britain and you will get a different picture of British society. One that is far from tolerant and embracing of different cultures.
British society has such a warped sense and understanding of tolerance that they believe racist stereotypes and language is actually acceptable.
Take Richard Hammond, one of the presenters of Top Gear who felt it was alright to make the following statement, “Mexican cars are just going to be a lazy, feckless, flatulent, oaf with a moustache leaning against a fence asleep looking at a cactus with a blanket with a hole in the middle on as a coat.” (The Telegraph: Sunday, 6 February 2011) Racist banter like this on British television is actually perceived as acceptable to the point that the BBC responded to the outrage by the Mexican ambassador with a statement suggesting that it was part of British humour to refer to national stereotypes. A justification in other words.
Credit to comedian Steve Coogan who wrote in the Observer that the Top Gear presenters were guilty of “casual racism” and that the BBC’s response was effectively a tolerance of casual racism. (Belfast Telegraph: Sunday, 6 February 2011)
Yet the casual racism Coogan speaks of has been a part of British society for a long time. In January 2008 a disturbing 64 percent of Guardian readers in a poll said that the term “sooty” was not racist in reference to a race row over Prince Charles referring to an Asian friend of his in this way. Guardian readers said that the term was not offensive and was in fact an affectionate term to use for someone from an ethnic background. (Gray: Sunday Herald, 2008)
Readers of the Guardian are supposed to be liberal, intelligent individuals and this poll casts a disturbing outlook on modern race relations in Britain.
A more disturbing news story involved Stephen Fry, who on his BBC show QI caused anger amongst Japanese people after making light hearted comments of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The lawyers representing the Mexican woman who brought a racism case against the BBC because of the Top Gear remarks, feel that the BBC had allowed these racist stereotypes to boost audience ratings, but this is beside the point. Stephen Fry would not make light of the Jewish Holocaust because he knows that he would be most likely out of a job.
The Top Gear presenters would not dare mention derogatory stereotypes about Jews, nor would the BBC have defended these stereotypes claiming it to be part of British national humour. Would 64 percent of Guardian readers think it was alright to refer to a Jew as a degrading term, and call it affectionate? I doubt it.
It is is this acceptance of racist language within British society which is why Britain and British people cannot refer to themselves as tolerant.
It is this acceptance of racist language why it was stated in a report published in 2009 that schools listed 40,000 incidents of racism involving children as young as five. (Read 40,000 racist incidents a year involving children as young as five says report)
Britain and British people are so intolerant that when a town or city’s non white population grows they move to a white neighbourhood, a term known as ‘white flight’. Alasdair Palmer and Karyn Miller said in reference to the white middle classes leaving areas with large non white populations, “…the middle classes are, despite the rhetoric of inclusiveness, no more welcoming or inclusive than some of their working-class compatriots…”. (‘White flight’ plus immigration always add up to segregation: Daily Telegraph: 8 October 2006)
This is the reality of Britain and it is not a picture of tolerance at all. It is in fact racism which has been tolerated by black and minority ethnic communities on a daily level for decades which could explain why British people believe that they are tolerant.
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