Race. With attitudes like this, how can we ever win?

Good humour and a twinkle in the eye: But what did Mishal Husain really think about the stories of racial and religious tension in Friday's BBC bulletin?

Good humour and a twinkle in the eye: But what did Mishal Husain really think about the stories of racial and religious tension in Friday’s BBC bulletin?

This country becomes more contradictory every day – or at least, that’s how it may have seemed to many people watching the BBC’s six o’clock news bulletin on Friday.

It led with the announcement that the Advertising Standards Authority would be investigating the scheme in which vans sponsored by the taxpayer (via the Home Office) have been driving through London, allegedly stirring up racial tensions by telling illegal immigrants to “go home”. Elsewhere, the vans have been criticised because they have encouraged people to report fellow British citizens as illegal aliens, and immigration officers carrying out spot-checks have also targeted people who were born in this country because they “didn’t sound British”.

Another item was about two British women who suffered traumatic injuries in an acid attack in Zanzibar, where they were working for a charity. The motive was not known but the report concentrated on tensions between Islam, the island’s main religion, and others, remarking on signs asking foreigners to respect the local culture and dress appropriately – covering up, rather than wearing skimpy outfits that would upset local people. It went on to say that the attack victims were, in fact, dressed appropriately at the time.

A third item put a spotlight on Switzerland, where race relations are deteriorating rapidly. It seems the authorities have been passing racial apartheid laws as ways of controlling immigration – and it was easy to imagine why this would be permitted after watching the report on the trouble Oprah Winfrey, one of the richest citizens of the United States of America, had buying a handbag there.

Oprah, in Switzerland to celebrate Tina Turner’s wedding, was continually told by a shop assistant that the item was “too expensive” for her. The knee-jerk conclusion for an onlooker is that the assistant was making a prejudiced judgement based on the fact that Ms Winfrey is not white.

So we were presented with three stories about racial tensions. In the UK, the issue was augmented with unwarranted accusations against people of foreign descent who were, in fact, born here. In Zanzibar the extra factor was the possibility that religious intolerance between Islam and others was behind the attack. And in Switzerland there was the out-and-out racism in the inference that a black woman could not possibly afford an expensive handbag.

These stories were indictments in their own right – made even more uncomfortable viewing by the fact that the news anchor for that bulletin was Mishal Husain who, although born in Northampton, has parents from Pakistan and is a Muslim. We can also expect her to be reasonably well-off, considering she has a high-profile job in television.

Vox Political has huge respect for Ms Husain. Her high-profile appointment as a presenter of Radio 4’s Today Programme is well-deserved and our only regret is that this will take her off our TV screens. She fronted these stories with good humour and a twinkle in her eye – which seems amazing restraint, considering the way they each highlight circumstances that could be applied to her.

There is no way of knowing what she thought of the developments she was chronicling and it would be inappropriate to ask. Having said that, did nobody else wonder what was going through Ms Husain’s mind when she told us the ASA said it had received many messages of support for the so-called “racist vans”?

There is no out-and-out party political message to this article; racism and religious intolerance can spring up among people on all parts of the political spectrum – and is an indictment against those who practise it, wherever it does.

Because it is something that may affect all of us, it is something that we can all fight. In the 21st century the thought that a person may be victimised because their skin is a different colour, or because they have different philosophical beliefs, makes a mockery of our claim to be civilised.

Don’t put up with it. Don’t sit in silence while others are attacked. Complain. Campaign. Turn back this ugly tide.

Otherwise, one day, you might wake up to find that it’s your turn to be the victim.

20 thoughts on “Race. With attitudes like this, how can we ever win?

  1. beetleypete

    Considering that the BBC employs many presenters and correspondents from a range of diverse backgrounds, i suppose we should give them some credit for that. At least they no longer solely use white, upper-class presenters, as they once did. I saw this actual broadcast, and I agree that Ms Husain appeared to see the irony, and that this came over during the News.
    Good points Mike, though I fear a resurgence of racism and xenophobia is not far off. Regards, Pete.

  2. bluetrace

    No, it isn’t. This is a typical New Labour/liberal argument that what matters is race, and how ‘individuals’ are affected by it. When the arguments should be made regarding the newsreader’s class. A class based analysis is the only one which would provide answers to these issues. Do you think her opinions are informed more through her Pakistani heritage or by her position and relative wealth?
    Take (future) Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi and Broosk Saib both aides to Jeffrey Archer during Archer’s “Simple Truth” campaign to help Kurdish victims of the Gulf War. Zahawi and Saib were nicknamed “Lemon kurd” and “Bean kurd” by Archer. Do you think this affected Zahawi’s relationship to Archer, no, not a bit of it. In 1994 Archer helped campaign for Zahawi for a seat on Wandsworth council. Zahawi also ran Archer’s unsuccessful campaign for Mayor of London in 1998. This is because Zahawi is a conservative first, his race/ethnicity is second. And in answer to your question, we will win, when we ask the right questions.

    1. Mike Sivier

      I’m a little taken aback by this response. You have missed the point entirely. What does class have to do with the stirring-up of racial hatred by the Home Office with its ill-advised vans? What does class have to do with the acid attack on two young women? Of the three stories, the only one to which it can have any relevance is that concerning Oprah Winfrey – who (Americans would assert) comes from a class-LESS society! What on Earth makes you think Mishal Husain’s personal opinions have anything to do with the stories in the bulletin? Even if she had written all the stories herself (unlikely), reporters’ opinions are forbidden from straight news articles in British journalism. Your story about Jeffrey Archer’s aides has nothing to do with this. You have been asking – and answering – the wrong questions. It appears you are trying to muddy the issue for purposes of your own and I would suggest that your next questions should be to yourself, ABOUT yourself.

  3. AM-FM

    I agree with the last line. It would be only a matter of time before IBS had a go at it.

    “Not working?
    Claiming benefits?
    There’s over 2500 vacancies in your area, ‘take one’ or expect to face some difficult questions from DWP.”

    Of course the genuinely unemployed and the genuinely disabled will have nothing to fear, but ‘genuinely’ won’t be defined, nor will how 19,500 unemployed will fit in to 2,500 vacancies.

    Even on the van posters they couldn’t get the statistics right. The 106 arrests in ‘your’ region, was the total for ‘all’ the regions. About 16 arrests per region IIRC.

  4. guy fawkes

    Just where is all of this victimization leading? The sick, disabled, unemployed, lone parents, gipsies, immigrants who are next the jews?

  5. Guy Ropes

    Your case might be stronger if you didn’t pick and mix your items of injustice. Whilst the instances you have highlighted matter, they most certainly don’t matter as much as many, many others. Top of any list to my mind should be the injustice that has been suffered by young children in “care” in this Country post-war. Please visit the ‘spotlight’ website and realise that the ill-treatment of such children would not be out of place in Nazi Germany. Utterly horrific. Shamefully, it continues to happen. No politician/politicians will do anything to stop this continuing scandal or address past outrages and our national broadcaster is entirely complicit.: Germany calling. Consider the outrageous use of Public Interest Immunity orders to cover up anything and everything illegal which successive Governments of this ‘green and entirely unpleasant land’ have perpetrated over the past 50 years (and, for sure, beyond). The biggest problem that must be addressed is the unprincipled impunity with which the common man and woman in Britain is treated if there is the merest whiff of scandal which might affect the powers that be and their “servants”. If this problem is addressed effectively, then I feel sure that the instances which you have listed would also be adequately addressed. This is of course an intractable problem; none of the Lords or any of our elected representatives will lift a finger to cure this ill because they would be pilloried to an irresistible degree by their colleagues (or the media who have, via their hacking exploits, gathered sufficient ‘black’ on them all to keep them quiet in the event of a real emergency). If there is something that “we” can do which might be effective in this regard, I’d be happy to help.

    1. Mike Sivier

      This blog does not “pick and mix” the injustices it reports. We can only discuss what we can see – and we can only claim what we can substantiate.

      1. Guy Ropes

        You have stated on the very next item that I have received from you, regarding the Tories, that you wish to discuss “what we can reasonably expect from them” should they get re-elected in 2015. You can’t substantiate what we’re going to get – it is only, I humbly suggest, your own opinion. I “reasonably believe” – if I may – that child abuse in Great Britain – compounded by ‘official inaction, obfuscation and lying’ is the biggest injustice in the Country (allied to widespread injustice in the “justice” system) I think that there is sufficient evidence available to the public to make that claim. Of course if it is your opinion is that name calling (hurtful I will agree) is a worse offence than child abuse, that is your right.

      2. Mike Sivier

        Of course the introduction to the very next item states that some of it is based on a document entitled ‘2020 Vision’, produced by Conservatives, and some of it is based on policies we have already seen enacted. If your reasonable belief is based on hard evidence then let’s get it out into the open, by all means. Without that kind of information, though, you need to be very careful about what you publish because you could put yourselve (and any third party through which you publish your allegations) in serious trouble.

        I’m not saying you don’t have a good point to make; I’m just saying you have to make it in the right way. And also, there’s no call to run down articles on other terrible things that are happening. Nobody’s going to help you if you’re running around insulting them, after all.

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  7. earlbramleyhoward

    “Don’t put up with it. Don’t sit in silence while others are attacked. Complain. Campaign. Turn back this ugly tide.
    Otherwise, one day, you might wake up to find that it’s your turn to be the victim.”

    As a disabled person, I already have been the target of this vile Government’s attacks on minorities 🙁

    1. Massimiliano Sortolano

      me and my wife are disabled as well and we are targeted all the time by this government who protect big corporation’s and banks, while in the meantime kill people on a daily basis with the help from atos. they are not even ashamed and give out in purpose the wrong figures to make people against people, a war between poor, while they are sitting down watching us killing each other.

  8. Mr Brian Powell

    I find it particularly sad, that when difficult times are being experienced by nearly all, it shows that the racial and religious tolerance that is shown during the ‘good’ times, is merely ‘window dressing,’ for the majority.

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