The title of this piece likely means more to me than it does you. Whilst at unviersity, I had a debate on Facebook with an SU officer about racism in today’s society and one helpful contributor suggested that ordering a ‘black coffee’ was nowadays, racist.
I treated this suggestion with the scorn it deserved; the move towards an age when white people simply saying “black” to describe something is considered racist? Not something I’m eager to help progress. On the flipside, “PC gone mad,” is, like “I’m a taxpayer” and “as a Christian,” something said almost exclusively by fucking arseholes and I’ve no wish to join that club. Let’s be honest though; anyone who has a problem with someone innocently ordering an Americano minus the Starbucksian bullshit phrase that now accompanies it has a problem with perspective.
UKIP Calypso has caused a fuss with such people and others beside over the past couple of days. “It’s racist,” goes the cry. Why? Because it features an English white man putting on an Afro-Carribean accent. Heaven forfend. As has been pointed out by others though, such people don’t seem to have a problem with Ricky Gervais’s “Equality Street” so what’s the difference?
The suggestion that one is parody and t’other be not is ridiculous. Anyone with a lick of sense can see both riff on classic tunes that aren’t suited to an oxbridge dialect. Neither has racist lyrics. These are not white supremacist songs we’re talking about. The trouble is that it’s a song in support of a vile organisation that is favourited by racists, so there is a liberal rush to condemn it by that association. But just as UKIP is not solely populated by racists, so too not everything associated with it is racist either. Let’s have some other examples.
Many moons ago whilst in a drama class, I potrayed a taxi driver with an Asian accent. “Stop!” cried the teacher. “That’s racist!”
“Why?” asked I? “Why is it any different to an English student putting on a Scottish accent?” I wasn’t being horrible about Asian people or perpetuating a myth about cab drivers; I was reflecting that many taxi drivers are Asian. The character’s race had nothing to do with the story; it was simply an added element of realism.
“It just is,” came the pitiful response, and duly pissed as a Scottish student in England, I played the rest of the scene pretending to be William Hague.
There’s a scene in the popular Assassin’s Creed series of games where the main character, having relived memories of an Italian ancestor speaks to a statue of another with, “Hey, what’s a matta wit you?”
“You’re racist!” cries another character.
“You’re racist,” he jokes back. Neither takes it seriously.
And why should they? Putting on different voices is fun; there’s never been any harm in it. Because I liked a certain movie, I’m particularly partial to putting on a South African accent every time I say “prawns” (and of late, “Pistorious”); no one who has ever heard me seriously thinks I’m attacking South African people. How many of us affect an Australian when playing about with a “barby” in the back yard? Every time we mimic a movie trailer we put on the ‘epic’ American voice-over accent. It’s not anti-American.
So what’s the problem with UKIP Calypso?
It’s for UKIP, and it’s that simple. We don’t like UKIP, lots of Ukippers are racist, thus the song is racist.
Except, the only way it’s racist is if I’m racist for putting on South African, Australian, Spanish, Russian, American, Japanese (you get the idea) accents too. As a liberal whose liberal ideas typically out liberal most liberals (try saying that over and over), I don’t like the idea that I’m racist. Which is fine because I’m not.
If I hated black people, I’d be racist. If I advocated inferior treatment of them to white folks, I’d be racist. I don’t. Every now and again though, I do put on an accent to make people chuckle.
UKIP Calypso commits no greater crime. Yes, it represents a party which policies are overtly racist. Yes, it represents a party which attracts racists like flies to shit. Yes, most Ukippers you meet and speak to are racist even if they’re too fucking stupid to realise it themselves.
That doesn’t mean the song is though. It’s a white guy putting on an accent for a laugh and because it suits the melody. It’s no worse than Ricky Gervais, or Alistair MacGowan or Jon Culshaw for that matter.
If you’re a liberal still reading this, fight UKIP. It is a horrible, backwards, establishment party (despite convincing most supporters it’s for the everyman) that will fuck up poor people and minorities in this country something rotten if they ever get in. They are one of the most serious threats to the continuation of the UK as a relatively free society.
That doesn’t mean the song is racist. It’s not. Pick your fucking battles.