Monday, November 21, 2005

Second Class Citizens


So, this year’s Christmas stamps are out. I was looking them over in the post office this morning. In the words of the post office blurb…

The images of the Madonna and Child for the special stamps were selected by artist Irene von Treskow, award winning designer, illustrator and Anglican priest. The collection comes from European, Haitian, Italian, Indian, Native American and Aboriginal Australian backgrounds.

Middle-aged white males who have benefited from a life of outstanding privilege such as myself will no doubt detect the hand of political correctness in their selection. But why should our stamps be any different? Our television has been adhering to Black face quotas for years now.

Britain’s cities, and London in particular, are now home to a staggering variety of different ethnic groups. Yet, all that diversity and complexity is dealt with by simply sticking the occasional Black face in a shot. Apparently, British television makers appear to be labouring under the perverse impression that all ethnic minorities are Black.

Yes, when you’re dealing with complicated issues such as race and culture why not over-simplify your treatment by making do with sticking a couple of Black kids in front of a camera, then giving yourself a great big pat on the back at how fucking right on you are.

So, as things stand in the UK at the moment, Black people are over-represented in novelty yoghurt adverts and postage stamps but thin on the ground in parliament.

I have a strong sense that the TV advertisers and the people who make programmes for the BBC are at least twenty years behind the times. Much of the ‘racial’ concern I pick up from people is not directed at Blacks. Most people’s concerns are not racial at all. They are cultural. Many people, myself included, may be concerned about the development of a certain kind of street culture in which Black male teenagers are over-represented but Black people per se are not an issue. There is plenty of grumbling about different cultural groups going on these days but it’s bugger all to do with skin colour and not usually directed at Blacks or Asians anyway. Fuck it, round where I live Jamaicans and Asians are amongst the only people who actually speak English and watched the same television as I did when they were kids.

Actually, I hear a lot more concern expressed about the perceived negative influence of certain groups of East European migrants than people from the Caribbean. So maybe TV commercial makers and postage stamp designers should start featuring thin white babies with high cheek bones in shiny leather jackets and crew cuts to communicate their anti-racist message.

You may detect that I have a problem with forced expressions of multiracialism. They are crude and patronising and usually ring false. It is painfully easy to identify when a Black face has been pressed into a TV show or advert or whatever in response to a quota or an edict. The result just doesn’t feel right. Watching a TV show or ad where a Black actor has obviously been drafted in to play the token ethnic friend in a group of middle class white people is truly cringe-inducing.

And often the results are outstandingly counterproductive as well as embarrassing. Take this year’s first and second class Christmas stamps for example…


That can’t be right can it?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

It would have rung far truer today if they had mixed-n-matched -- placing the black child with the white madonna and vice versa.

That would have tweaked some C-of-E-ers wouldn't it.

Noel said...

Cool, whites get the the whites on their 1st class stamp and the blacks get blacks on their 2nd class stamp. All pretty logical.

de said...

Of course Stef was not offered the third classs stamp - this is just paying a Bengali kid to run to the address with your letter.

Ad world sort of reaches to small market town Britain, which looks nothing like London. Hence Londoners find ads with no mixed race kids or couples, no turbans, no be-hoodied teens, no homeless, and no mentally disturbed a little disconcerting.

Then there is export TV, where they have fewer non-whites because it upsets American viewers perception of the UK.