Video: Is Britain racist? #BESoM

Appearing on Frankie Boyle’s Election Autopsy 2015 back in May, rapper, poet and journalist Akala talks about Britain’s inherent xenophobia, touching on imperialism and colonialism and how that has bred and perpetuated racism and white-centricity in society today…

Akala starts speaking at 1.38…

“When we talk about race we often talk about individual acts of prejudice, which is why UKIP often come up because they overtly say stuff we find offensive. But unfortunately the issue of race if we understand it is a lot more insidious, and it takes a lot more of a historical view to understand the difference between individual bias and structural racism and privilege and the idea of Great Britain was intimately tied to the fact that Britain has invaded almost every country on the earth, literally. Literally there’s a map. You can Google it.  So the idea of our greatness was intimately tied to this idea of empire, which was intimately tied to what Rudyard Kipling calls ‘the white man’s burden’ – to go and  civilise all these stupid brown folks that have been writing and having civilisations for thousands of years but let’s forget about that.”

Let me know what you think – is Britain racist?


Trevor Noah reminds Britain of its colonial past…

Tonight I watched this clip of South African comedian Trevor Noah’s appearance on the John Bishop show in the UK back in May. His performance focuses on the arrogance and absurdity of British colonialism. His touch is light and deep, which is much needed in Britain where these issues and this history are widely ignored.

A few highlights:

“The British immigration officer says “Sir you’ve got to understand i’m not trying to be a hardass about this but I can’t just believe you’re here to do what you say you’re going to do – you could do something else.” I was like “well you know what, fair enough, fair enough, that’s a great attitude to have. That’s the attitude I wish we’d had in South Africa when the British first arrived – it would have saved us a lot of pain.””

“It’s a fun game colonisation, it really was. It’s the most arrogant form of patriotism when you think about it, you know. It must have been cool. Like I wonder what Britain was like back then, it was so great, that you guys wanted to go and make it somewhere else. It was like ‘this is wonderful, we should do it everywhere’. That’s exactly what it was, colonisation all over the world. What’s weird to me though, is like how people act like colonisation never happened, I don’t like that. Like it’s weird when people say ‘all these bloody foreigners coming into the UK, all these bloody foreigners..’ well it’s because YOU TOLD them about the UK! You’ve gotta understand, in the world we did not care for this place at all, noone knew about Great Britain. In India they were having a good time, the British went and told the Indians about Great Britain – they were having fun with elephants and spices, they had no need to come to this country…”

“It’s colonisation done right that’s what I truly enjoy, the British did it perfectly. Yeah. Cos’ now we’re friends; we all speak the same languages, we even have a games where we participate together – the Commonwealth Games. Ironically named. There was nothing common about it. The wealth was in one place. [It’s like] ‘Right, let’s forget everything that happened and let’s play some games together’.”


A question for Justine Greening, Melinda Gates, Tewodros Melesse and Justin Forsyth

I received an email last week from the Guardian Development Professionals Network inviting me to submit a question to a panel of speakers taking part in a discussion on the rights of women and girls. The event is hosted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and Save the Children.

This is what I submitted:

“I feel that a lot of development dialogue perpetuates unfair stereotypes of developing countries and does not give fair representation of their citizens (the discourse focuses disproportionately on poverty, suffering, corruption, war etc and treats the people involved as a collective, homogeneous group and thus dehumanizes). Do you agree with this and if so do you also agree this is damaging? What can be done to stop this?”

The speakers at the event include:

  • The UK’s Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening
  • Co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Melinda Gates
  • CEO of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Tewodros Melesse
  • CEO of Save the Children, Justin Forsyth

The event takes place on Wednesday in London and will focus on the steps towards improving the lives of women and girls around the world, through family planning, ending female genital mutilation, child marriage and infant mortality.

I doubt that this is a question that will get asked, but I will be interested to hear the responses if it does.

What do you think of my question? What would you have asked instead?