Recently, a British television channel invited Black guests onto their show in an attempt to debate ideas around equality, in light of the performance by dance troupe Diversity on Britain’s Got Talent. Seemingly, this was presented to allow both sides of an “argument” to be heard, and to showcase the unpopular and surprising opinion of certain members of the Black community. Apparently, fighting for equality has become an issue that qualifies for debate, and is one that should be broadcast on morning TV to those who haven’t quite “woken up”, with Piers Morgan playing the role of Martin Luther King, Jr. Such an image should only serve to highlight the dark times we are living in where these pantomime scenes have audiences lapping up racism. It begs the question, what is British television’s agenda? Is it to promote diversity or is inviting anti-Black, Black people a way to boost television ratings through shock value and sensationalism? Does this further hinder the fight for equality overall by weaponising racial ignorance as entertainment? If so, then how can we untangle ourselves from this twisted narrative that layers racist notions and invites people to indulge them?
The last two weeks have been the most preposterous and yet the clearest demonstration of how divided the nation is on the issue of inequality in 2020. Fortunately, the complaints against Diversity have been put to bed and ITV has issued a statement and released full-page print adverts stating that they stand with Diversity. The racists have essentially been given the finger and it’s one-nil in favour of those against racism. But before rushing to salute Ofcom as the pillar of social justice, it has to be said that this whole ordeal that saw 24,000 complaints filed, also unravelled the very loose thread on the Britain’s sanity and it’s showing no signs of self-awareness or realisation. Can we put the far-right’s Union Jack back in the box, and nail it shut in any meaningful way? It seems we might have gone past that point and that the issue of anti-Blackness is now an open case. Though racism is no longer Britain’s best kept secret, the ways in which it’s being examined by broadcasters, is what’s truly disturbing.
Although ITV made great and encouraging statements about equality, it’s quite troubling that the same channel would invite a bigot – Calvin Robinson who is a Black man, on to Good Morning Britain to debate the issue of whether Diversity should have performed or not. They also invited other people of colour onto the show, who felt the same anti-Black sentiment. Some even stating that artists have no business making political statements, the same way an agitated nan would react to hearing Public Enemy for the first time. This is a trend that has long been used in the US with the likes of Candace Owens, making timely special appearances to spout prejudice rhetoric towards a group to which she belongs, and we seem to be getting our own preview of this new format in the UK.
For channels that promote themselves as diverse, it’s quite odd that they would not see how providing a platform for bigotry goes against this idea. Black people such as Candace Owens and Calvin Robinson serve one purpose to television channels, and that is to personify the notions that keep racism alive. By presenting Black people who are anti-Black in a televised segment on racial equality, that might intrigue your average viewer who has already been encouraged to view things from a racial lens. It’s TV clickbait of this nature which draws on humanities baser instincts. People might ask the question; how can a Black man or woman say they don’t believe that Black Lives Matter because racism does not exist in Britain? Surely if even the Black man on TV is saying BLM is dangerous then we’ve heard it from the horse’s mouth right? Black people can’t be racist against themselves, can they? Indulging this dangerous curiosity stems from the racist notions that people hold and are reaffirmed by such televised debate.
If you’ve had a chance to look around the site then do check out a blog post on “How Jo Malone Censored Blackness and Why John Boyega’s Exit Couldn’t Be More Justified”. The blog post tackles some of the complexities on racial caste systems, racial identity and self-hate which is quite pertinent to what I will aim to unfold here, when looking at some of the reasons why Black bigots exist. Think of a Black bigot the same way you might think of a homophobic gay man, like Ethan Stables who tried to kill those attending a Gay Pride event in England. Though it appears to be an oxymoron, never underestimate the power of shame, abuse and internalised self-loathing. When examining the history of racism, slavery and all of its siblings, self-hate has been key to dividing and conquering without even being present. It works as a sort of passive income for racism. Many Black people have suffered identity crises at the hands of racism. For example, colourism which pits lighter skinned Black women against darker skinned Black women. The ever-present “white standard” that Black people are told to aspire to whether that is straight hair because coily hair is deemed undesirable, or to have smaller facial features because a wider nose is seem as monstrous. Even basic psychology will show that when a person is exposed to this much scrutiny and abuse, it is then unsurprising when that person loses their sense of identity and then becomes “the bully” so to speak. When Priti Patel’s and Shaun Bailey’s end up on the scene, supporting the very systems that marginalise them, this is just another aspect of the effects of racism personified. However, this does not negate the fact that people such as Candace Owens and Calvin Robinson are bigots and they should be viewed as such. Bigotry is a great evil that comes in many different skin tones and television is proof of that.
The idea that Black people can’t have bigoted views is what exacerbates racism and at the same time is what racism hides behind. If we cannot correctly identify a bigot because of the colour of their skin colour, then that is how prejudice upholds itself. TV segments that debate equality in this sensationalist way, exploit simplistic racist ideas and truly profit from and puppeteer them. Theoretically, if these TV shows were even remotely about truthfully debating or showing a balanced view, then perhaps inviting white and far-right leader – Tommy Robinson, would be appropriate. Though that probably wasn’t approved by production because Tommy isn’t a great look for those desperately seeking to legitimise their views and make equality a debate. The same way he’s been castrated from daytime TV is the same fate Calvin Robinson and co. should meet. Instead of manipulating racism and race for entertainment and gain.
Though ITV’s stance on Diversity’s performance is welcomed, the media must realise that racism is not a new entertainment angle or a fixture on morning TV, but that there are real lives at stake, and it shouldn’t be trivialised in this way. Sensationalising the narrative on fighting racism for a few more eyeballs on ads is the backbone of racism and utilising Black bigots as entertainment exposes that age-old stereotype. Furthermore, capitalising on pain dressed in a suit, wearing an afro accompanied with an articulate way of speaking, doesn’t take away from the fact that there is pain in people like Calvin Robinson and Candace Owens and that the media exploits it’s ugly bigoted consequences. But as Britain seeks to become more American in many ways, let’s all thoroughly brace ourselves for less humanity, as the country loses a grip on its sanity. Fighting for equality will be difficult, but its better we know what we’re fighting against no matter what it looks like.