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Iconic figures: Rosa Parks (Vinette Robinson) meets the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) – at just the right time to shine a light on rising real-world racism.

As an iconic TV drama celebrated a black woman who changed the world by sitting down on a bus, RyanAir dragged our entire culture backwards by throwing a black person out of their plane seat, on the insistence of a racist.

The BBC broadcast one of its most powerful and moving episodes of Doctor Who in years on the evening of Sunday, October 21. Entitled Rosa, it was about the moment when a black woman took a seat in a whites-only section of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, and was arrested for it. This led to the Montgomery bus boycott, in which black people refused to use the service – and to the capitulation of the bus company to their demand (to be able to sit wherever they wanted) around one year later. From there, the American civil rights movement grew and attitudes changed radically.

The TV drama made perfectly clear the reasons for change. As iNews put it in its review, “Last week… the Doctor and her team had to survive on a ‘cruel’ planet full of monsters. And yet that alien setting could never match the reality of deep south America; of the shock of Ryan [Tosin Cole] being slapped by a white man in the street and threatened with lynching; of the tension of seeing Ryan and Yaz [Mandip Gill] do something as banal as sit in a restaurant; of the danger suggested by the camera lingering on the holster of a cop’s gun; of the thematically bold spectacle of the Doctor sitting in the white section of a segregated bus, while Ryan has to sit at the back.”

For This Writer, a crucial scene took place beyind a trash bin, where Ryan and Yaz discuss the need to do nothing to provoke the racists – because you never know who will react with violence.

That sentiment was proved by the racism of a passenger on RyanAir flight FR015 from Barcelona to London Stansted on Friday (October 19).

The bigoted white man unleashed a furious, foul-mouthed racist rant at a disabled black woman that shocked other passengers.

But rather than put the racist in his place, RyanAir staff removed the victim of his vicious attack from hers.

It seems the tirade began when the lady was unable to move out of the racist’s way fast enough, to let him sit down in his window seat.

I was going to quote some of the confrontation – but why encourage others reading this to do the same? The racists came out in force to support Sajid Javid after the Vox Political article about his racist tweet a couple of days ago, after all.

RyanAir has said the perpetrator has been reported to the police. He should have been removed from the plane before it took off.

Making matters worse, it seems the 77-year-old victim was a member of the Windrush generation who had been returning from a holiday abroad that marked the first anniversary of her husband’s death.

The Windrush generation are – as has been well-documented, here and elsewhere – victims of institutional racism by the UK’s Conservative government, which destroyed papers conferring on them their British citizenship and right to all the benefits it provides – and then tried to deport thousands of people on the grounds that they could not prove their right to stay in the UK.

Was this incident yet another indication that culture is backsliding into racism, bigotry and prejudice?

If so, then the Doctor Who episode could not have been broadcast at a better time.

It shone a spotlight on the primitive attitudes of the racists and made it clear that the only place for attitudes like theirs is the history books.

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