Is Rozanne Duncan, the ex-UKIP councillor who made “jawdropping” remarks during the BBC's “Meet The Ukippers”, actually racist? In her own words, she has an implacable hostility problem with “negroes” and negroid features. So far so prejudiced, I'm sure many of you will say.
However, in my opinion, as a “Negress” with classic “negroid” features all over, Rozanne is just stating what the reality is for many 66-year-old women. It would seem that she doesn't have any black friends, or doesn't know any black people at all (although she has said that she once visited the Caribbean and found it "okay").
You have to feel for her: the nearest Rozanne probably gets to a black face is dusting the TV when Sir Trevor McDonald is on. And they took the golliwogs off the Robertson's jam jars in 2002, so even her daily breakfast exposure to black faces has been depleted.
I've encountered many people with a similar attitude to Rozanne. While working as a barrister, I once met with a middle-aged female client, and they seemed surprised when they saw me. Their first words were “Oh, you're coloured”. “Yes, I am” was my response, just to confirm what she was seeing. I felt like I could read her mind. What was someone like me doing, looking like...me? As well as having an English name, I'm well educated, politely spoken, and work in an almost entirely white industry. And as many people have pointed out to me, I even have a “white voice”.
Since then, I've honed my response to such surprise. “Let me guess? You were expecting a petite, ginger-haired, Irish woman?” I say to break the ice. And we all smile. It's tiresome, demoralising and demeaning. Although it's happening less and less now. The internet now means that less people are shocked when they meet me for the first time. Especially if you're giving them legal help, everyone checks you out on Google, which saves everyone from that awkward moment.
Ukip gaffes and controversies
Ukip gaffes and controversies
1/18 European elections poster
Party's latest EU election posters branded 'racist' and compared to BNP campaigns
2/18 Farage 'car-crash' interview
Ukip spin doctor forced to intervene as Farage falters in disastrous radio interview
3/18 Neil Hamilton
Picture Exclusive: The year is 1998. The venue is a Springbok Club meeting. The flag is a symbol for white supremacists in South Africa. And the speaker is Ukip’s deputy chairman, Neil Hamilton
4/18 Kerry Smith
Kerry Smith resigned as would-be MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock after it emerged he had mocked gay party members as “disgusting poofters”, joked about shooting people from Chigwell in a “peasant hunt” and referred to someone with a Chinese name as a “Chinky bird”
5/18 Natasha Bolter
Former Ukip member Natasha Bolter was suspected of not having the teaching qualifications she professed to, only days after it was revealed that claims of her having attended Oxford University were also false
6/18 Ukip Calypso song
Mike Reid released a single in praise of UKIP trying to control the UK's borders, only to withdraw the single after being accused of racism for singing in a Jamaican accent
7/18 Janice Atkinson
Janice Atkinson, Ukip's South East chair, pictured by protesters while campaigning in Ashford, Kent with local party chair Norman Taylor
8/18 Ukip cancels Freephone
Ukip cancels Freephone number after protesters repeatedly called to push up costs
9/18 Farage 'car-crash' interview
Mr Farage appeared to be caught out on a number of issues, from Romanian neighbours to people speaking foreign languages on the train
10/18 Ukip employs illegal immigrants
Ukip criticised after European election candidate found employing illegal immigrants
11/18 Magnus Nielsen
Ukip candidate: 'Take away the right to vote to improve election turnout'
12/18 Poster model
A “British builder” portrayed in a Ukip poster accusing EU workers of taking UK jobs turns out to be an Irish actor - aka a migrant worker
13/18 'Arrest protesters'
Ukip called for police to arrest protesters ‘who call us fascists’ ahead of showdown with anti-fascist groups in Brighton
14/18 London Live make-up
Ukip's Nigel Farage reportedly refused to go on London Live 'without professional make up-artist'
15/18 Andre Lampitt
Ukip forced to suspend the "poster boy" of its European election broadcast, after it was revealed he had posted a series of vile racist comments on Twitter
Nigel Farage says he is taking taking legal advice over “outrageous” allegations that he is responsible for more than £50,000 of “missing” EU funding that was paid directly into his personal bank account
17/18 Have I Got News For You
Nigel Farage appears in Have I Got News For You, spends the entire episode being ridiculed over expenses and party 'fruitcakes'
18/18 Anti-gay comments
Local branch chairman for Ukip defends a party's councillor candidate Douglas Denny who called gay people “abnormal” and said he wished “they stop trying to ram it down my throat”, all while discussing whether the word “sodomite” should be used
Of course, we can't completely ignore the fact that what Rozanne did is technically racist. But the reason that I don't think we should call her a "racist" is that it doesn't seem to help remedy the situation. If we're going to stop people like Rozanne being prejudiced, there's a much better word: ignorant.
It's a complete lack of education and experience that they really suffer from. Now, you might argue that ignorance and racism have a great deal of overlap, but the distinction is still important. Whenever we call someone racist, there's no chance of rehabilitation for them — they've gone too far down the racist rabbit hole. But when we recognise them as more ignorant than racist — like Rozanne is — there's at least a chance that they can learn from their mistake.
When outbursts like hers hit the news, I remind myself that even the Mayor of London once referred to black children as “piccaninnies” in a 2002 column he wrote for The Daily Telegraph. He also referred to the “watermelon smiles” of black people. Yet lovable Boris, who became mayor in a city that is 40 per cent black and minority ethnic, could be our future PM, and is now one of our most popular living politicians.
So I'm sure Rozanne can be rehabilitated. Being British, she's living in one of the best countries to do so. There might be a certain number of black spots (or should that be white spots?) of racial ignorance across the UK, including Thanet, where Rozanne lives. But otherwise I'd say we were pretty great for racial harmony, at least when compared to many other European countries or the US.
Aside from the largely healthy relationships that now exist between different British communities, mixed race families — which were considered a faux pas when I was growing up — have come to define Britain, and have produced some of our biggest stars, such as the Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton.
So I don't think that Rozanne Duncan is really racist — or at least, there's no use in labelling her as such. Instead of saying that she has “no regrets” like she did earlier today, she just needs to admit that she doesn't know any black people. Then, once she's come to terms with her ignorance, she needs to find some black friends quickly. Maybe I could help: if you ever feel like having lunch in London Rozanne, then I'm free whenever you are.Reuse content