Wednesday, 10 August 2011

"Talking Rubbish"

A microcosm of the reasons behind the riots appeared on public telly last night, apparent to anyone with a caring heart and some attention to detail.

A young black man talking about laws on “joint enterprise laws” and their effects on young and poor people. A white woman interrupts him (and apologizes to the presenter for doing so) and says that he’s “talking rubbish”.

Talking rubbish. No “you’re misguided” or “that’s incorrect, wrong, inaccurate”. No. The black man was “talking rubbish”. Afterwards, when the other young man from an ethnic minority was talking, she went on “I’ve never heard so much rubbish”.

And while the two white, middle aged (most certainly middle class) people on the panel took turns to present rioters as “vile people”, “thugs” and “scumbags” who need discipline, and then proceeded to cry out for their mothers to interfere, the black man tried to remind them that “they are still part of society”. 

The white woman would have none of it. She could be heard saying “they are not part of my society”.

This is it. This is precisely what is going on. White people from privileged backgrounds refusing to acknowledge rioters as members of their society, going so far as to deny that they are “human”. I probably don’t need to remind the world of what happens when a group of people is considered “less” than human.

There is such a thing as basic human decency. And it’s possible to disagree while remaining civil. However, dismissing another person’s words as nothing but “rubbish” shows a deep seated lack of respect and an inability to grant the other person the same level of worth one would grant a member of their own class or race.

Poor black people try to explain, and rich white Britain doesn’t want to listen. It’s all “rubbish”. It comes from the mouths of poor people; black people. Worthless people.

Would Ms White Middle Class Woman have dared to say to a Rich White Man that he’s talking “rubbish”? I personally happen to think that Jeremy Paxman talks rubbish on an almost constant basis, but I would stop at saying that to his face.

What astonishes me is how nobody seems to have picked up on this word. The lack of respect towards the most vulnerable in society is so great that a white woman can say to a black man to his face that he’s “talking rubbish” on public television and nobody bats an eyelid.  

The name of the black man, a student, is Yohanes Scarlett. I won’t do Ms White Middle Class Woman the courtesy of writing down her name. She’s not part of “my” society.

Before I leave, I want to say this. If there is one good thing that has come from the riots is witnessing people from poor backgrounds being so spot on. It’s been a while since I saw so much common sense on the telly. While it is heartbreaking that it has taken violence and riots for the media to shine its light upon the dispossessed and broadcast their voices, it is truly inspiring to realise that they know precisely what is going on, why and what needs to change.

The Revolution is round the corner.


Robert said...

Hear hear.

A said...

Hi Mary Tracy,

I've been thinking about this since I first read your post yesterday, and I think part of "doing it differently" is trying to have empathy for all perspectives. Being angry at someone trash-talking someone else (particularly someone who has lesser race and class status) is completely understandable; and yet, if my neighbors were putting other people at risk to prove a point, I might also be understandably upset, particularly since I'm not really the one causing the problems. You know? It seems like both parties in your post are using problematic tactics in trying to redress real grievances caused by people that neither of them has much chance of directly reaching.

Whether we like it or not, we are all part of each other's society and what we do impacts all of us. The sooner we understand that, and behave as though we understand that, the better we will be able to address the problems that we face.

Just my $0.02 US. :)


Ursula said...

Hear, hear indeed.

And, white middleclasses getting out and about with their brooms to sweep away the scum'.

Mary Tracy said...

@Ursula And then getting upset because the council had already cleaned everything. LOL! What are they going to do now? Clean mess that the riots hadn't caused? And without a camera to witness their heroic act?

Anonymous said...

That woman was purposely picked to go on that live debate to introduce a hysterical out of touch idiot, with no manners, to firestart and paint the voice of reason as 'trash'. What a circus.

A said...

Hi Mary Tracy, I just wanted to give you a link to this article which discusses a slightly different perspective on the riots (though not this particular media piece that you are discussing):