CW: I have copied highly offensive (but censored) wording of Johnson’s own writing- if you are a POC please take caution in reading this. If you’re a white person- read it and absorb that this is who we have in charge.
Boris Johnson’s refusal to acknowledge, condemn and apologise for his outright racism is yet another canker on the face of a country already under strain from several angles- begs the question, why won’t people who made mistakes just admit to them and condemn them? And further to that- is an apology enough to POC for us to be able to accept that we’re currently being ruled by racism?
I’m not a POC, and I worry all the time that being brought up in simple ignorance means I’ll say something offensive. I’m sure some people’s first reaction to that is a hearty eyeroll but I know exactly what it’s like for someone to say something really rude without even really meaning to and the internal “what the hell… do I say something? That might be awkward. Maybe I’ll just leave it. I’m pissed off now”. It’s exhausting and it must be worse for a person of colour, especially because their whole lives have been blighted by the conversation more and more people with less and less actual understanding are weighing in on- what is racism, what is acceptable and how do we stamp it out?
It’s only recently that the UK government commissioned a report that we were all glad to see be requested- an in depth look into institutional racism in society. Hopes were high that the report might be able to find where our society was landing against people of colour, and how this could be adjusted so that it was reduced to vanishing- hopes that quickly disappeared before the report was even disclosed when Munira Mirza was added to head the report up. Why, you ask?
Here’s an excerpt from the Guardian article, showing that Mirza believes her own personal experience is universal- rather than being borne by the privilege she has attained:
Mirza attended Oxford- that well known school for the elites- but somehow is able to believe that she is representative of all POC in the UK. I’ll leave you to search up her other quotes about racial divisiveness in the UK- there are plenty.
To defend the PM, rather than asking he show contrition, is something that’s confused me since I became aware of his divisive verbal diarrhoea- so many people leaping to his defence- including himself. I’d have some respect for someone who came forward and apologised for their actions, explained that they had hideous views once and condemn them now having learned how poisonous they are- but ultimately it’s not for me to forgive- it’s not a violation of my existence. People of colour have the ultimate say as to whether the comments he makes are forgivable. Perhaps this instance, then, was a simple slip of the tongue.
But Crime Sinister Johnson’s tongue is, if anything, very slippery:
Please re-read his column, and tell me what context there could be for that?
Are we also going to forget this:
I don’t know: can someone else tell me what context is needed to use that language, and to imply some kind of imaginary verisimilitude in damning the actions of a person doing their job, referring to the transgressor as “indigenous”.
Johnson wants to distance himself from a culture war, and yet so conveniently forgets his multiple bloody handed instigations of racial division. Unable even to condemn, decry or apologise for these words, he fails to see how his rhetoric started the battles he’s now begging to bow out of.
The instigation of a “culture war” (what culture- being a person of colour?) pre-dates our erstwhile PM though of course. But can a man who has pushed this divisive wording over and over whilst hiding behind the self assured illusory comforts of a person like Mirza or Priti Patel really claim ignorance? You need only look at the sentiments he uttered about kneeling for racial equality (he falsely attributed kneeling to the Black Lives Matter movement despite repeated clarification from the England football team that kneeling was apolitical and a simple but powerful act to show solidarity against racism), literally refusing to condemn racism on and off the pitch – then his speedy turnaround to “shocked and appalled” when said racism tore through the internet like a thunderbolt.
As several prominent people have said since- you don’t get to refuse to condemn people who boo an apolitical act to show solidarity with victims of racism and then act surprised when racism finds footing in the country you run- especially when you have a pathological incapability of apologising for your words.
Lies? Stupidity? Or Just Callous Indifference?
I’ve started to believe that Johnson is just blissfully unaware that every word he throws off the cuff has disastrous consequences- look at the evidence.
He made a speech recently where he confirmed that it “only makes sense” to wear masks in enclosed spaces during another building wave of the coronavirus pandemic- only to be photographed not wearing a mask in his chauffeur driven car with his security and driver- IN THE SAME DAY.
People have taken his words about “freedom day” and twisted them, there is no denying it- but how he can cast off the mask mandate and not realise the abuse he’s foisting on anyone who needs to enforce it for their own good… he is either very foolish or just as callous as his regular mistakes indicate. Perhaps both, but I refuse to believe neither. Anyone who claimed masks were “not necessary” after the 19th in the face of this building wave of infections must either be extremely incautious… or extremely devious.
Back on Johnson’s terminal indifference to his own racist remarks, we had another ridiculous and transparent attempt to silence POC in parliament today- because originally there were NO people of colour tabled to speak out against the recent events in the press and public! At the speaker of the houses’ insistence, MP Zarah Sultana was added to the roster- and when she, a POC speaking passionately about anti racism, was speaking- she was told to lower her tone (!) by a tory MP!
Led by a man whose flippancy with racist terms, can we truly be shocked that they feel so empowered to speak over someone who will have (not may have- will have) suffered racist abuse in her life.
Johnson’s insistence that his racist writings are taken out of context is beyond disingenuous- there is no context he could write the things he has written, that would lead to a belief that it’s anything other than the stoking of division and some form of self aggrandisement on the basis of his own lily white hide.
Let’s speak about another incident shall we?
No proof unfortunately, but MP Dawn Butler recounted a story where Natalie Rowe, writer of “Whipping up a Storm” was at a party and Johnson approached her, carrying a watermelon and making monkey noises- tell me I’m missing context, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.
People like Patel and Mirza whose infamy amongst the country as apologists for the abuse heaped on persons just like them are unwittingly enabling Johnson to compound this behaviour. He’ll never learn his lesson whilst his enablers continue to whisper that he’s doing right, that people just don’t “get” him- and until he understands that his verbosity and generosity with racial gaslighting has real world consequences- like the events of the BLM protests, like the events of the football rioting, like deepening distrust of the establishment when a report written to help the existence of POC is bastardised and sold on lies to expunge the conscience of wilful racists like Johnson et. al- this will only continue and worsen. The only question is what the final blow to push POC and their allies over the boiling point will be, and if it’s close or far.