Well done Ofcom for defending Diversity from complaints

TV and radio bigwigs have been mightily slow off the mark but finally, they’re catching up with what’s right

Shaparak Khorsandi@ShappiKhorsandi
Friday 18 September 2020 16:52
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Diversity take the knee during Black Lives Matter themed Britain's Got Talent performance

I loved the dance troupe Diversity long before the “Well I don’t know much about art, but I am a bit of a racist” brigade waded in to complain about their performance on Britain’s Got Talent.  

More than 24,000 complained to Ofcom because the dance depicted their support for the Black Lives Matter movement, including a stylised reenactment of George Floyd’s murder by US police. “Why oh why could they not just do a nice Morris dance eh? Why does everything have to be political? It’s a family show for goodness sake, why must they moan about being murdered while I’m having my tea?”

The ever erudite Jim Davidson made a special online video to rant that Diversity “just wanted to be famous”. In all of showbusiness, I’d say dancers and choreographers are the least driven by fame and adulation. Most dancers I have had the great good fortune of knowing and got to work with on occasion, do what they do because of raw passion. 

If “fame” means wanting as many people as possible to see the work you’ve bust a gut to make, then yes of course they want to be famous. Davidson is locked in his own little world of the other kind of “wanting to be famous” – the ugly kind where if it’s not you on the TV being looked at and adored, you feel lost and resentful and make venomous little videos in your pants (to be fair, he wasn’t actually in his pants, but that was the vibe). 

Bitterness is at the root of all the complaints about black people being given space on television. Why else would you possibly object to changes that are finally being made? Those who regularly complain that there are too many non-whites in Britain are now pointing out that non-whites are a tiny percentage and so having more of them on TV and on the radio is not “representing the population” as though only a black person can find or enjoy the work of black people. 

If we don’t have more black people on television, if we don’t make it completely normal for non-whites to be hosting shows, starring in comedies, soap operas, reading the news, we leave our population vulnerable to the confirmation bias of rightwing media outlets. Confirmation bias, looking for stories to report where a person of a particular group or race has committed a crime and reporting only that. Giving the illusion that those in another race are the perpetrators of all bad things. It’s a powerful way to make people racists. Really, it works. We are all only human after all and feed enough of the same grotty information into our brains and we will start to believe it. Happily, racism is a disease that can be cured. When enmeshed in envy and bitterness then this is tricky. You have to want to not be a racist.

We are finally seeing some TV and radio bigwigs making an effort to change the status quo when casting. You don’t have to be a frothing racist to have been part of the problem. The most liberal people, the gatekeepers of the entertainment industry have been painfully slow in seeing that none of us are immune to unconscious bias. Eventually, everybody will see that nothing bad will happen if we have more faces in our media and entertainment that are not white. In such a transition, there will be those who really won’t handle it well. Hold firm, it will pass.  

Frankie Boyle’s New World Order had Sophie Duker on this week. Sophie, a black comedian, made a jokey aside, breaking up an intellectual, academic point she was making about white supremacy. That’s what comics do. In the middle of saying something serious, we crack a joke to lighten it up. 

The rightwing media, already poised, pounced “COMEDIAN JOKES ABOUT KILLING WHITE PEOPLE”. The racists’ desperation to prove that black people are a danger to white people clutched at very thin straws here. You are losing, racists, you are sinking. Deal with it.

Ofcom has now issued a statement saying it will not be further investigating the complaints made about Diversity’s performance on Britain’s Got Talent, saying there was “no explicit reference to any political organisation, but rather a message that the lives of black people matter”. Racists hate common sense.

It leaves them with nothing to do but scream “WOKE LEFTISTS” into the wind.

In his trademark “angry-bulldog-chewing-a-wasp” persona, Jim Davidson went on in his little broadcast to say “most TV presenters are non-white” and suggested Diversity do a dance about mugging.  I dare Davidson to express his opinions through a dance routine. Now that is a show of his I’d pay to see. I might even believe that underneath all the hate, he has a sense of humour.

Shappi Khorsandi is a stand-up comedian, writer and columnist. She is also the president of the British Humanist Association

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