Friday, 28 November 2008

Racist joke received by UClan Student- wrong, or very wrong?

First published at

An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman… And so the joke goes. But the ‘gags’ sent from 118-118 to a student at UClan, Kameron Abbass, were not about one of these entrenched, playful British sterotypes, they were two, about Asians, and Pakistanis.

The religious beliefs of the recipient have been picked up by the Nationals. He is a Muslim. But mixing the notions of nationality and religion is dangerous territory.

Not all Asians are Muslims, and vice-versa. So Muslims might feel the highlighting of the fact makes them a sort of positive-scapegoat.

You particularly should be offended, because that’s the hot topic, the zeitgeist. Nicely prescribed outrage from the great white media pulpit.

Kameron implied on Rock FM today that had the joke been received by a white person, they would have had a right chuckle and promptly circulated it to their entire phonebook. And probably text the 118 service for another corker.

But this isn’t a fair judgement. I’d like to think that most white people would have been offended. Especially offended that some half-wit somewhere is texting in their name something that they wouldn’t text, let alone think themselves.

And then surely the argument would follow, that if an Asian person had been sent a racist joke about a white person, it would have likewise done the rounds… And so the paranoia continues…

People might argue that as British stereotypes are common-place in the UK, your parents, your hair colour, even your skin colour are all comedians fodder (Richard K. Amos, a Black comedian cannot appear on a panel-show without the frankly not even funny, ‘is it because I’m Black?’ post ironic hilarity), then so too can your ethnic origin.

Or are skin colour and nationality non-transferable humours?

And of the ‘entrenched, playful’ British stereotypes. Are Irish people all too pleased to be the butt of the national joke?

Earlier this year Caerphilly Council in Wales were given a leaflet on acceptable terminology for race relations. In a section on what words or phrases not to use to avoid causing offence, the leaflet informs: ‘The idea of “British” implies a false sense of unity – many Scots, Welsh and Irish resist being called British and the land denoted by the term contains a wide variety of cultures, languages and religions.’

Wandering a little away from words arranged for amusement, it seems I might have been offending people throughout. White and Asian-British alike would be tearing their hair out!

If the texts were intended as a joke, albeit wholly inappropriate and offensive, and obviously constructed by some bored call-centre working moron, I believe the accepted term is that they have ‘fallen flat’.

But what this could turn in to is an all-out attack on our society, which is unfair on the majority of people in the UK who take pride in their nationality, whatever it is, and are happy to live and work alongside each other.

Britain is a country struggling to encompass the different cultures and religious beliefs of its varied citizenry. Making mistakes and making advancements as we go. Bringing this into the public domain might make something out of what could just have been a disciplinary on the one, idiotic culprit.

And obviously any checks that were not being performed on what must be a joke database carnival are done from now on.

If recent standards are anything to go by, whoever wrote the joke should be shot, without pay. In terms of offensiveness, a playful nod towards murdering someone is worse than Brand and Ross’ answering machine messages.

But who’s to say it was a white person anyway?

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