There was a South African racist on radio 4 last night, on the comedy slot. No, it’s not what you think – this guy was half-white and half-black and spent most of his life until he left the country, trying to define himself in ways other than the state defined him. When he went to America he was looking forward to being seen as black, but everyone thought he was Hispanic. The one thing he could never be, though, was white.
To make comedy out of such experiences demands a special talent – and this guy is hilarious. He reminded me of the best of Lenny Henry’s early stuff:
It set me thinking, though: why do we (by which I mean me and my family and most of my friends) call ourselves white? We’re not white. We should be more accurate – start calling ourselves ‘pinko-beige’ or something. Except that that makes us sound like a rather bland bunch of Communists; which is an odd concept. I mean, there were bright-red Communists, red as arterial blood – like Lenin and Trotsky – then there were grey, concrete-block Communists like Kosygin and Gromyko – but beige Communists? I don’t know who that’d be: perhaps some left-over caucus in Barnsley.
It’s hard making your mind up about people. Why we should feel the need to classify everyone according to race or colour, I don’t know, but we do. Nowadays we live in a highly complex society where we meet new people all the time and have to make quick decisions about them. We also need to make such decisions about people we hear and see on the media. Who do we trust? How do we know when someone is telling the truth?
Take this bloke. He was a producer on radio 1 during the Savile years, and at first I thought he was talking quite honestly about what went on, saying that he regretted not taking action even though those were ‘other times’. He spoke of his sorrow and repentance and I almost bought it – but the more he talked, the more something didn’t feel right. It was all too easy, I thought; too glib – and when, having described himself as a ‘happily married man’ he equally frankly described having slept with lots of young women (‘though never under age’) I made up my mind: I didn’t buy it.
It’s about 2 hrs 10 mins in:
But how do we know?
How do you know when to trust someone?
Under-age sex and paedophilia was something we didn’t get around to discussing in our Drink and Think meeting. Have things gone too far there as well? Are we now so paranoid about the exploitation of children that we don’t allow them any freedom at all?