Sigh. I’m tired.
In the wake of Harry Windsor and Meghan Markle’s decision to step back from whatever royals do all day, the media has been on the defensive over its coverage of Meghan. You know Meghan who was “straight outta Compton”, whose mother was a “visibly black woman with dreadlocks” and is portrayed as a scheming, manipulative social climbing mulatto – another old racist trope – happy to help!
And they don’t like being challenged on their racism, especially as it is being discussed internationally. Gayle King on US TV was simply not having it when British royal author Penny Junor suggested Meghan’s treatment had nothing to do with racism, during which Junor used the phrase “coloured people”.
How dare those pesky foreigners and British people of colour suggest that the UK isn’t a lovely tolerant country with unicorns and rainbows and Olympics opening ceremonies! And don’t you know other countries are worse? (Possibly mate, but we LIVE HERE and also that suggests people of colour should be GRATEFUL and accept an incredibly low bar).
So to prove what a happy non racist country the UK, calls go out in TV and radio stations from Rupert and Camilla to Giles and Poppy, to look through their contacts and find someone of dusky hue to come on TV and “debate” racism! How about Afua Hirsch or Jamelia? Or Reni Eddo-Lodge (did you even read the title of her book? It’s literally called “Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race”). If that fails DM some black people on twitter, because of course they don’t know any in real life.
And then the format of the interview is that one person of colour sits in a room of white people in front of the cameras and is asked to explain to a sea of furrowed brows just how the UK is racist, and if they are unlucky enough to sit opposite the odious Piers Morgan, be shouted down. Because as we know to accuse a nation state of being structurally racist is more appalling than having suffered it yourself. They are gaslighted, talked over, and abused, be they a music star or a former barrister like Hirsch, the treatment is the same.
Two things to me stand out from these live gaslighting sessions – firstly the utter basic nature of the debate in this country. It reminds me of the conversations I had in primary school: “Aww Marcus so Wayne called you a monkey I’m sure he didn’t mean it that way?”
Secondly, only one person of colour is invited to explain themselves to a room of white faces, which is not only an ambush but betrays the fact that the media and establishment likes us to be divorced from our communities. One person of colour is acceptable, two or more is a threat or a “Gang” like there’s going to be a full scale slave revolt in the studio. There is no sign of the nuanced discussions people of colour have about this topic amongst ourselves, it’s simply more divide and rule.
As the debate ends and the presenters and producers congratulate themselves on a job well done with the suspiciously high numbers of white people in their London office (should be 40% people of colour folks!) what do we actually learn from their output? Nothing, apart from the fact that the media loves to serve and perpetuate white supremacy in this country, and hopefully make people of colour look ridiculous on live TV.
It’s the sheer bad faith of it all that adds to my weariness of these regular farces. As well as personal anecdotes, there are innumerable statistics – including from the Office of National Statistics – and peer reviewed studies documenting racial inequality in the UK. The evidence is there, such as the rocketing hate crime stats post-Brexit. But why use google when you can have a performative segment where professional dickhead Piers Morgan can shout over a woman of colour?
It’s time to refuse turning up for these debates and switch them off. Let’s not quote tweet them and give them engagement. There are more useful conversations going on amongst people of colour and to be baited by people in the media who frankly don’t give a shit and just want viewers and clicks is colluding with their own brand of white supremacist violence.
If you must turn up for these debates, may I suggest taking a large strawberry milkshake for throwing purposes? Because frankly that’s the childish response these malevolent and frankly irredeemably basic shouting matches deserve.