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Persevering against prejudice

May 12,2019 - Last updated at May 12,2019

A young couple who were married a year ago had their first baby last week. The mother and baby were in perfect health and the father was over the moon with joy. Now why is this newsworthy?

Because some people could not allow a moment like this one to pass without trying to mar it with racist venom. A BBC radio presenter Tweeted a photo of a man and a woman holding a chimpanzee dressed in clothes, with the caption: “Royal baby leaves hospital.”

The Tweeter was sacked because the BBC considered that the Tweet was a serious error of judgement. The journalist apologised, claiming that he meant to have a joke about royals and circus animals in posh clothes, not to lampoon the baby’s African American origin, and then he argued that he did not realise the racist connotations of the picture when he posted it.

Seriously? A 61 year-old broadcaster is not aware of the racist implications of that photo? Even if this were true, he would still deserve to be sacked for acting in extremely bad taste because, irrespective of social class, when a young couple celebrate their first baby it would be wicked to compare that baby to a monkey.

This episode shows the new face of racism, which consists of double trivialisation on the social media. The idea is to post a racist slur trivialising something that deserves to be treated with respect, and the moment someone objects, the offender counters by trivialising that person or group, first by denying awareness of the racist implications of the post, then by accusing the offended party of reading too much in an innocent joke, and of stifling freedom of expression under guise of political correctness.

But it is amazing that racism still exists. Science has proven that homo sapiens all developed in east Africa around 200,000 years ago; and yet today, in the 21st century, we still have people who believe that certain races are intrinsically superior or inferior to others, and public policies in otherwise respectable countries continue to be formulated on the basis of such outlooks.

In fairness, humanity has made considerable progress towards eliminating racism, particularly in the latter half of the 20th century; but the sad fact, as Einstein put it, is that it is still easier to smash an atom than a prejudice.  

Optimists among us believed that the election of Barak Obama as president of the US was the turning point after which racism would become a thing of the past. Clearly, we underestimated the resilience of human bigotry.

It takes a long time to change society’s outlook, but it is vital to make this change, which requires all the enlightened people to remain vigilant and act against every expression of racism, using all legal means.

This is not an exaggeration; the reaction should be proportionate with the enormity of the threat, and racism is man’s gravest threat to man. It is the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.


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