I am fairly confident we are heading towards a discussion on racism. Discussions tend to crop up when several stories come at once and start getting picked up by national media and going wild on Twitter. Here are three things that are likely to provoke some discussion.
First, there is the discussion surround Harry & Meghan. There are those insisting that the Sussexes have been hounded from Britain specifically because of racism received by the Duchess of Sussex. The Telegraph has been vociferous that, whatever difficulties have been faced by Meghan in the British press, they were not racist. Along with them, Priti Patel has insisted racism was not and issue as has Piers Morgan. Columnists Owen Jones and Afua Hirsch both insist that racism was most definitely an issue.
Second, in discussing any racial connotations surrounding the Sussexes, Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu went onto This Morning and proceeded to make the following comments:
Here, Dr Mos-Shogbamimu went beyond the question of whether the Duchess of Sussex had suffered racism and went on to discuss the question of white privilege. Privilege is without doubt a phenomenon. It is a brute reality that some are born into greater privilege than others and have a leg up that many others don’t. However, Dr Mos-Shogbamimu has caused others to begin questioning her definitions and the extent of how she applied the concept of privilege.
The parody account, Titania McGrath, commented this way:
Whereas others (and there are lots of others) who were supporting Dr Shola with these sorts of comments:
Thirdly, the issue of so-called ‘grooming gangs’ is back in the news. One of the police detectives who was central in the Rochdale grooming scandal has now turned whistleblower. An independent investigation into the police force across Greater Manchester has been opened by Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham after an independent report stated that investigations were shut down prematurely and the force had spent years covering up its failures. You can read the Guardian report here.
This story will, inevitably, kick of a discussion about ‘grooming gangs’ again. Some of the failures were in cases surrounding groups of predominantly South Asian men in which it has been well documented that police, social services and politicians all failed to act for fear of being labelled racist. Whilst the investigation covers far more than ‘grooming gangs’ this issue will inevitably come to the fore again as these things are investigated and potential police failures are laid bare.
This tells me we are heading for some discussion about race. I don’t know whether these discussions will prove to be helpful or not. I suspect there will be real issues that some wish to ignore and some things that others will stretch so far as to cause real issues to be ignored. What I do know is there are issues that need to be discussed and this coming together of stories means we are likely to discuss them.
My hope is that these things might be discussed helpfully. We might actually be able to hear some of the very real and live issues of racism and do something about them. I hope we might also be able to reach a point where we don’t overplay identity issues to the point that we undercut the very real, live problems. But the way discussion is polarised of late, I am not holding my breath. I suspect camps will be formed. Real issues surrounding racism will be brushed off by those who never suffer it and cite examples non-racial criticism being deemed racist as evidence everyone is just over-sensitive. As those who do face real issues then become defensive, such examples will end up with a plentiful supply as each rebuff is seen as further evidence of blindness to the issue. I hope we are able to get the heart of the real issues and have an honest discussion about them; but I am not really all that hopeful.