Right and wrong, black and white

Channel 4 seem to be happy to broadcast what they term “cultural” and “class-based” bullying. It seems they did almost nothing to stop Jade Goody and the other housemates bullying Shilpa Shetty. This suggests to me that the reason that they wouldn’t broadcast “overtly racist behaviour” is because racist actions are illegal. If they are basing their decisions on what is and is not illegal, then they are ignoring questions of morality, ethics and human decency. I wonder, did they take the advice of Lawyers or did they go to their Public Relations people? Did they take anyone’s advice at all?

So why IS bullying ok when racism isn’t?

Racism and BullyingBullying and racism overlap in a venn diagram: not all bullying is racist and not all racism is bullying. So far, so obvious.

There are legal structures around racism, of course; racially motivated attacks in the UK carry greater sentences than mere thuggery and you are legally protected from racist bias in the workplace.

Presumably racist acts are illegal because it is relatively simple to legislate against them. After all, it is the action which is legislated against, not the attitude. It is racial, (or sexual or homophobic) discrimination which is illegal, not racism, sexism and homophobia. In all conscience, it is hard enough to prove discrimination in a court of law or a tribunal.

Racism is a prejudice that cannot speak its name. No-one in their right mind is going to stand up and say “I am a racist” – witness Mel Gibson’s retraction of his anti-Semitism last year. People will however ascribe the most appalling bigotry and prejudice to “cultural differences” and get away with it. Call me naive, but I fail to see why prejudice based on “cultural differences” is morally any better than racism. It is not as socially unacceptable, and it is not legislated against, but it is – surely – just as bad morally. Channel 4 has used this get-out-of-jail-free card itself, and allowed Jade Goody and the other housemates to use it, thereby perpetuating the pernicious myth that it is ok to express prejudice based on another person’s culture “because that isn’t racist”.

I really have to conclude that Channel 4 is morally bankrupt. It seems to me that the only reason they stepped in at all is that racial harassment and racial discrimination are illegal. If they weren’t illegal, I suspect that they would not have stepped in.

It seems that they do not know the difference between right and wrong, only the difference between black and white.

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2 responses to “Right and wrong, black and white

  1. I’ve read all the commenters, the articles, and you, Aphra, have written the most clear-headed, unfuzzy of perspectives out there. Thanks for cutting the crap. I agree whole-heartedly.

  2. You are kinder than I deserve. I am still having trouble articulating what I mean about this. I guess it comes down to the old ethical debate about intentions versus outcomes.

    Thanks for reading and thanks for commenting.

    Aphra.

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