Saturday, 19 May 2012

John Barnes: if race doesn't exist, what's racism?

Former England footballer John Barnes may have a point when he claims that negative images of black people in the last 200 years were generated to give intellectual weight to the slavery industry. Personally, I’m glad we’re coming to accept that race is a chimera.

But there’s been no parallel deconstruction of the notion of racism, still seen as discrimination visited by white people upon others whose skin-colour is different. While there’s enough of that, the concept is open to partisan manipulation by those who feel that being non-white absolves them of becoming what they behold. So we have, for example, Ken Livingstone’s former race advisor Lee Jasper stating that "black people cannot be racist".

This exemption from racism is something that Labour MP Diane Abbott obviously buys into, but it has to be said that there are white people who would like to control what views black people are allowed to hold: thus we saw Rochford and Southend councillor Dr Blaine Robin suspended from the Conservative Party in 2011 for attending an English Defence League demonstration.

Kipling: read about Baa Baa Black Sheep on Britannica Online

One of the writers Barnes has it in for is that shibboleth of the Left, Rudyard Kipling – witness the repeated attacks on his Baa Baa Black Sheep, whose inspiration was not race but his feeling of being treated as "the black sheep" of the family he was living with when attending school in, ironically enough, Southend. But Kipling’s works are complex and nuanced: contrast his pre-emptive attack on multiculturalism in The Stranger at my Gate (quoted in a comment on the Casuals United post on Barnes) with the final stanza of his famous poem on the sacrificial heroism of a Muslim Bhishti water-bearer -

Though I've belted you and flayed you,
By the livin' Gawd that made you,
You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

1 comment:

  1. Ok interesting views... some of what Barnes says has some weight... I am personally of the opinion that race only exists as an abstract, (a terribly flawed one at that, which I will go into), racism in my mind is simply anyone whom believes or follows that abstract... and consequently they would be racists also (simplifying what I mean here racism is not racial hatred, they can be separated)... looking at the abstract it takes a small number of genetic traits (in my opinion the most glaringly obvious physical differences) in an inconsistent fashion (i.e skin colour is just a phenotype as is hair, yet hair colour has holds no value in the abstract of race), mixed in with some cultural and geographical differences, it's a pretty week model if you ask me... (I understand people struggle when they are trying to generalize, particularly with language, trying to describe someone who under that abstract of race would be called "black", realistically you can describe and should describe these people as you would any other phenotype difference i.e the person with brown skin.)... What is a stronger abstract / model when generalizing is to discuss populations as opposed to "Blacks", "whites", or try not to generalize since there are always exceptions to generalizations.

    That being said, the majority of people I have encountered are racist... doesn't mean they hate people as a consequence nor to do I hate them, it's just a model they chose to accept (probably due to convenience and prevalence and I don't.)