It is, in its way, unfortunate that the term “racist” is so very blunt. It is a word of tremendous force and width.
“Racist” begins its journey somewhere around the BBC Parliament caption writer accidentally mis-captioning black MPs with each others’ names, and rides all the way up to and beyond the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
Partly, that explains its popularity. There is nothing worse a person can be than a racist.
To call someone a racist leaves a thrillingly salty taste in the mouth.
If a political opponent or public figure can be found to have made some poorly phrased comments at some point in the fairly distant past, they can be bludgeoned with the “r” word, and dragged by association, and with thrilling potency, to the very extreme end of its scale.
So when the rapper, Dave, reaching the conclusion of a stunning performance at the Brit awards, drops his pre-planned bomb, and says “the prime minister’s a real racist”, the instant response of whoops of delight from the crowd speak to the thrill of the attack: the severity of the crime of which the prime minister has been accused.
But the use of the word also offers a way out. It is no surprise that it should take only seconds for those on the other side to say that of course Johnson is not a racist. The guys who killed Stephen Lawrence. They were racist. It’s just some old newspaper columns.
If you actually READ the column about Muslim women looking like bankrobbers and letterboxes, you’ll see it was a DEFENCE of liberalism. (Yes, yes of course it was. And, if you actually read my absolutely glowing review of my local curry house, you’ll see there are scarcely any more than two very light-hearted jokes about the waiting staff, and they still kicked me off TripAdvisor. The world’s gone mad.)
Is Boris Johnson a racist? Has he actively discriminated against people of colour throughout the course of his life? Probably not. But has he contributed to the suffering and the general hardness of life on non-white people living in Britain? Absolutely yes. Without any shadow of a doubt.
Is it boring to have to bring up again, the columns about African children looking like “flag-waving piccaninnies?” About “watermelon smiles”? About even more egregious examples than that, describing a group of Ugandan children who once sang for him at a ceremony in Uganda as “Aids-ridden choristers”?
These quotes haven’t gone away because the new prime minister has declined two decades worth of opportunities to apologise for them.
But he certainly had no problem producing Islamophobic lies about the UK’s “new border with Syria and Iraq” during the 2016 referendum. Providing Islamophobes with the Islamophobic lies they needed to vote for Brexit was a core strategy of the Vote Leave campaign. Is that racist? Yes, it absolutely is.
It is also a somewhat delicious irony that, on stage at the Brit awards, the rapper Tyler, the Creator, dedicated his win to Theresa May after she prevented him from coming to the country five years ago, a matter of minutes before the government was about to launch its new salary-linked immigration scheme.
By way of background: in 2015, Theresa May used anti-terror legislation to prevent him from performing at Reading and Leeds festival, on the grounds that his music “encourages violence and intolerance of homosexuality”.
He has since made the point the songs in question were written from the point of an alter ego. That they were, you know, artistic works. No one has, as yet, banned James Bond movies because of the remarkable tendency of people within them to seek to blow up the world.
Still, Tyler has made it now so evidently the laws have been relaxed. And as Theresa May herself is now out on the public speaking circuit, we can only assume she is also ascribing her edgy early work, you know, the “citizens of nowhere” stuff to some sort of Theresa May act that she, Theresa May, was working on at the time.
Only trouble is, the old Theresa May, the actual prime minister one, was making a lot less money than the new one. And as Lorraine Kelly’s accountant will tell you, if you’re going to start claiming that you spend half your life doing a slightly tweaked impression of yourself, it makes much more financial sense if the fictional you is the higher earner. Poor May – cursed again.
All of which leaves us precious little time to consider the government’s new, “Australian points-based immigration system”, other than to point out it is nothing like the Australian one, which actually increases immigration, and isn’t points-based at all, other than that you gain or lose points based on how much money you earn.
But an Australian style points-based immigration system is what the voters want, so it’s what we’re getting. It will mean that high-skilled, high earning, doctors and scientists and so on will be able to come to the UK, but it will spell, we are told, “the end of unskilled cheap labour.”
Because when the native population makes it clear at the ballot box not once but twice that they’ve had enough of immigrants, what they obviously want is for the skilled jobs still to be taken by immigrants, but the unskilled, poorly paid ones to be saved for them.
They’ve had enough of them all, coming over here, cooking our food, waiting on our tables, cleaning our houses.
It’s time those jobs were given back to their rightful owners, the British. From now on, the immigrants will have to know their place, which is flying our planes, running our universities, performing our complex surgical operations, and headlining our music festivals.
That’s what taking back control was always about. And anyone that tries to tell you otherwise, ignore them. They just think you’re a racist.