So with all that’s going on in the news right now, Alan Sugar’s f*ck up on twitter came as a bit of light relief to me this morning. I was sitting at my desk, putting off working on something important when my feed showed me a stupid racist comment he’d made about a football team. ‘What an idiot!’, I thought. He claimed to recognise the line up selling their wares on a beach in Marbella and the tone was that of humour. He definitely thought it was funny, he definitely didn’t consider the fall out and he has since deleted said tweet and apologised.. although not very quickly.
Well, twitter was not having it! Given that these tweets broke up video and audio of young children being separated from their parents in the US, the drama had me hooked!
I’ve always felt that words do not necessarily represent a persons views or prejudices. Someone can be lovely as lovely can be on the outside and behind closed doors (in earshot of their impressionable young) it’s a different story. Just as another can use offensive language (let’s say they should know better but they don’t) and have no malicious motives whatsoever. Ignorance isn’t an excuse but in my opinion if someone is truly ignorant they are not in the same camp as the truly racist.
This has been my opinion for as long as I can remember. I would be so cross when I’d hear someone torn down for making a joke or tiptoeing around a subject for fear of saying the wrong thing. In my mind, I knew who was who and what was what. I wouldn’t associate with someone who had those kind of beliefs and wouldn’t stand by while someone was harassed so that should have been enough. I knew I wasn’t racist so if I used the wrong terminology it didn’t make that so, it just meant I didn’t know!!
I’ve tried to have this conversation with people SO many times over the years but anything that could be a little taboo makes people (is it a British thing?) so uncomfortable!!! So today when I saw twitter taking Alan to task and calling for his immediate execution (only slight hyperbole) I thought it was as good a time as any. I said that he’d made a mistake, he obviously thought it was a joke and that although what he said was racist, it didn’t make him racist.
I mean, I should have known really, shouldn’t I? I wasn’t intentionally defending a ‘racist’, in my mind I was making a point I’d always believed in and hoping to open up a conversation with people who wouldn’t shy away from the subject – enter twitter. The reason you have to be so careful on social media is because you are tweeting to a potentially infinite number of people and they have no idea who you are. Even if they think they know you they probably don’t so a tweet like that could be interpreted in a number of ways depending on what you’ve decided is my agenda.
Given that I live in a town that voted more than 60% leave in Brexit I have had plenty of heated discussions re immigration that touched on race since the vote that have pushed me further and further left, so in my mind I am nothing but tolerant, never knowingly offensive and will go to bat for anyone who needs me. I thought I had myself sussed until I ‘defended’ Mr Sugar by way of using his tweet to make my earlier point.
I immediately saw criticism, which I expected and is often hard to use as a jumping off point for discussion. If someone has already made their mind up, there’s little point in a back and forth. But then the responses from friends* (*twitter friends) came in and that’s where I started to look at things differently. I thought it was unfair that a lapse in judgement be used as a reason to crucify someone. I didn’t consider that my opinion had been born from my own surroundings just as Alan’s disregard for any potential offense was born from his.
His joke sounded like something I’d hear across a Wetherspoons and think “FFS! Idiots!” but it wouldn’t shock me. It wouldn’t disgust me. I wouldn’t demand that the culprit be removed from the bar. It’s pretty.. normal. There in lies the problem, dear reader! Just because I know myself not to be prejudice doesn’t mean I haven’t been influenced by those around me. I work in a multicultural office, none of that there, at home again, nothing but every time I stand in line for anything, when I’m in KFC, when I’m waiting to be served at the bar, at the cash machine.. these conversations get in! They get in and they make you think something that shouldn’t be normal is normal.
Thanks to some twitter folks who actually want to enlighten those willing to hear them rather than ‘put you in the bin’ as is so often remarked these days, I have a completely fresh perspective on something I’d believed to be true for years. You can’t learn anything if you don’t admit you don’t know everything first but you also have to have willing teachers who will impart wisdom rather than judge your lack of it. I am not too proud to admit that there are many things I do not understand but I am ashamed to realise that I found myself in a bubble today that I don’t remember getting it to. For years I put my head in the sand about important topics because it was easier than learning about them and although I thought I was a little more enlightened today, I still found myself escaping the horrific news stories to engage in a twitter debate that proved my ignorance further.
I’m going to live in my bubble a little while longer as my twitter feed has resumed to the horror I was looking to avoid but the bubble is a little better informed now.. if anyone would like to join me and have a normal person chat about feminism without shouting I’d love to have you 😉