Sunday, January 21, 2007

Can we please get real?

Trevor Philips, Chairman of the Equality commission, is on the Beeb right now voicing the opinion that racism starts the moment one starts talking about someone in terms of their group identity; in this specific instance when "she" becomes "they". That's crap Trevor.

He also described as racist an incident when the man at the gate at BBC Television Centre asked him who he had come to pick up. (So when someone once approached me in Borders and asked for my help finding a book that was racist too? )

Rudeness, ignorance and all kinds of bizarre assumptions are part and parcel of social interactions and whatever the Archbishop of York and Tessa Jowell may think, very hard to regulate.

Society is an eclectic mix of individual and group identities and stereotyping is very much part of our evolved psychology. I find it more than a bit dubious that the dangerously emotive term 'racism' is being deployed whenever a bias occurs across a social or cultural divide where there is also an ethnic component. (Trevor Phillips thinks it is completely irrelevant that Jade herself is of mixed race, but I'm not so sure.)

Last week's goings on in the BB house were a long way from representing the ugliest side of grass-roots prejudice in this country, and to outside eyes it is the collective fear of looking bad they have revealed, that must in fact look particularly bad in this instance.

If what happened to Trevor Phillips on his way to the TV studio were the very worst aspect of bigotry in the modern world, then we would have cause indeed to celebrate. Let's hope the week that starts tomorrow has some real news. Good news of course.

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