Editorial....23rd January, 2020
Ignorance has been on our minds this week, locally and nationally.
The national issue was actor Laurence Fox, who we’d never heard of before but who is now enjoying a burst of fame as poster boy of the alt right.
His stance seems to be that accusing him of being racist simply because he is a privileged white man is itself racist, which is mostly rubbish (and he duly exposed his ignorance in short order) but his argument has enough logic to it to give it some weight when wielded by bigots and the malicious.
Here at the Chron, we are 100% inclusive in our hiring of staff. Over the years we have employed people of various colours, creeds, sexual persuasion and personality. The only criteria are that they need to fit in, and their English must be good. (We did employ one lad who was of foreign descent and we worried he was thinking in his native tongue — his stories were garbled — but it transpired out he was an alcoholic, and just half pissed).
The point is, we might be slighted if someone said we were racist because we were white and middle class, but we couldn’t argue the general point. Assuming Mr Fox is genuinely egalitarian, he may feel he has a point: but his and our experience of being nice to people is not the same as someone having a life-long experience of people not being nice on racial grounds, and we cannot compare the two.
The fact we are aware of being inclusive means many people are not; at least one employer has told us over the years that their selection process involves CVs from applicants with foreign names going into the bin.
Mr Fox, the son of actor James Fox who went to Harrow School and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, has probably never gone for a job and worried he’d not get it because he was white, or indeed worried his name meant he’d never get that interview in his first place.
His argument was somewhat undermined in an article he was hastily (key word, that — he’d not have been thought of a week ago) asked to comment in, regarding the Oscar-nominated war epic 1917, which he said was institutionally racist because a Sikh soldier appeared in a frame or two.
He’s correct but not in the way he thinks: two thirds of all forces fighting for the Allies in WW1 were non-white and Sikhs made up more than 20% of the volunteer army. The film could be accused of being racist because it only has one Sikh. Some 74,187 Indian soldiers died and a comparable number were wounded. At the First Battle of Ypres, Khudadad Khan, a Muslim, became the first Indian to be awarded a VC.
(Fun fact for those who yearn for a return of Empire and end of migration: if Wikipedia existed in 1913, it would have called the British Empire Hindu – 50% of people — or Muslim (20%), with only 10% Christian. The British Empire comprised of 412m people, of whom only 45m lived in the UK; 303m lived in India, 52m in Africa, 26m in other Asian colonies, and 1.6m in the West Indies).
Is Mr Fox racist? We can’t say but he does seem a little ignorant, and the same could be said of the local row over an anti-Semitic tweet via Jeremy Corbyn shared by Jo Dale, Congleton’s Labour candidate in the last general election. After we ran a letter last week, we had complaints from local Labour members and the regional office of the national party.
First of all, we don’t think Ms Dale is anti-Semitic and we know she deeply regrets sharing the damn tweet, but still: she did, and after Labour had apologised and deemed it unacceptable, too. It’s a warning to everyone about sharing material you don’t fully understand, especially politicians like Mr Corbyn who seem not to read much but respond by gut feeling.
To explain: anti-Semites (or Russians looking to cause trouble) are fond of social media memes that claim a conspiracy of the wealthy controls the world. The trouble is these wealthy only include people whose names end in -child or -burg (or are called Soros). The list of the wealthy never includes Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Carlos Slim or our own dear Queen, or indeed the people who might really control to world, the people behind Facebook, Amazon, Twitter and Google et al.
In the mural commented upon by Mr Corbyn the central figures had hook noses and beards and were using a table resting on the bodies of men.
A letter this week (see this page) makes the perfectly valid point that the Tories are as bad with their Islamophobia and this is correct, but as your mum always said — two wrongs don’t make a right. Any kind of unfounded prejudice is bad and the prejudice of one party does not negate the racism of another.
The word “nice” was used earlier and that’s all it is really: be nice to other people. However justified or politically righteous you might feel, just be nice. It’s not nice to tell actual victims of racism they don’t understand, and that you understand their experience better than they.