The right needs to learn that free speech doesn't excuse the promotion of hate

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Wednesday 15 August 2018 14:51 BST
Having a few people from other cultures or ethnicities in your government doesn't mean the rich, white, male majority aren't racists
Having a few people from other cultures or ethnicities in your government doesn't mean the rich, white, male majority aren't racists (PA)

BBC Breakfast interviewed Sadiq Khan, mayor of London, this morning about the incident yesterday and its effect on the image of London. They then went on to ask about racism and specifically antisemitism in the Labour Party. Fair enough. No such questions, however, have been asked of Tory MPs, who have avoided being interviewed about the comments made by the intellectual giant, Boris Johnson.

No mention of Islamophobia, racism or the likely taunts to be generated by his comments. A black, female MP told how, in 2008, she was taunted by the Tory David Heathcote-Amory with a comment about how they “let anybody in here these days”. She, Dawn Butler, was told by another Tory that the lifts weren’t “for cleaners”. How about challenging those attitudes next time you ask some Tory MP about Johnson’s blatant racism? Having a few people from other cultures or ethnicities in your government doesn’t mean the rich, white, male majority aren’t racists.

And before someone mentions “freedom of speech”, this does not mean that one can say what one likes about who they like in whatever way they like. Ethically, it carries responsibly and accountability. It cannot be done in the manner many interpret it to mean, i.e. with impunity. Thus, Johnson should be charged with the promotion of hate crime.

R Kimble

To state the obvious, social attitudes change.

I once enjoyed The Black and White Minstrel Show. I knew one of the banjo players – he was not evil. Neither me nor my parents and neighbours regarded the show as an insult to people of colour. There were not many black people around and we gave no thought to how they might be affected. Children had golliwogs amongst their dolls. Today I would be chastised by my children if I said the G-word, which now resides in the same lexicon as the F-word, the C-word and other obscenities.

As an adult I could once comfort a lost child, or read a woman’s magazine without the risk of being called a pervert. I would still cross the street to avoid a group of Hell’s Angels, even though they are probably harmless. Years ago in Hackney I would feel intimidated by a group of tall Caribbean youths as I now do by over-boisterous white men.

I don’t recall seeing a burqa or niqab when I was young. I find them strange, as I am used to seeing the whole countenance. Given an appropriate opportunity, I smile at strangers, ask the time or briefly joke if we have to dodge around each other in the street. I suggest that normal friendly encounters can be awkward with someone hidden in a burqa.

I respect the views of those who wear certain garments or ornaments for whatever reasons but I feel they have accept that if the face is covered it discourages friendly social intercourse, makes many feel uncomfortable and unfortunately may encourage prejudice or worse. Attitudes may change but it could be a while before we all feel at ease with burqas and niqabs.

John Peacock
Frome, Somerset

What I think caused the Genoa bridge collapse

I have crossed the Morandi Bridge dozens of times during the past twenty years and have always felt nervous. I believe there are several reasons for its collapse.

  1. It was never designed to cope with the huge volume of heavy traffic which thunders across it it 24 hours a day.
  2. The privatisation of Europe’s motorways where profits count more than safety
  3. The problem of corruption, administrative delays and poor quality materials in Italy’s construction industry

This is the third serious bridge and motorway accident this month. Following previous earthquakes and several building and road collapses, the ex-infrastructure minister, Graziano Delrio, said “Italy is the only country where motorists have to pray each time they cross a viaduct or bridge”.

The subject of Italy’s motorways and construction industry is included in my recent book The World at a Crossroads, which presents the case for ending private concessions and returning the management of motorways to the state.

Peter Fieldman
Florence, Italy

Sportspeople need to be on top form

Now that the Ben Stokes trial is over, I thought I might make a number of points.

Firstly, I shall not judge either the verdict, nor any of the procedures before or during said trial; however I would suggest that the British Medical Association liaise with the English Cricketing Board to find a suitable programme of enlightenment. The dangers of consuming the vast quantities of alcohol need to be underlined.

The old chestnut of “this is a one-off” will not wash nowadays; with top cricketers earning substantial rewards along with time on their hands, it is a dangerous mix. After all, they are dependent on their high levels of fitness and being bodily intact. By the way, this comes from a longstanding cricket fan, who remembers being 20-something, and has never joined the temperance movement – although I am sure they are splendid people.

Robert Boston
Kingshill, Kent

Mr. Stokes is found not guilty of affray and is instantly reinstated into the squad for the next test match. So the well paid, professional sportsman, who after a heavy drinking session and rather unsavoury brawl outside a nightclub at 3am is welcomed back into the team perhaps at the expense of the up-and-coming Sam Curran. Not guilty of affray maybe, but clearly guilty of rather stupid and unacceptable behaviour for somebody in his position. He really should not be in the eleven for the next test.

Professor Brian S Everitt
London, SE19

Trump doesn’t have to go low, he’s already beneath all of us

President Trump has called former White House aide Omarosa Manigault-Newman a “dog”, an offensive statement that has no substance to it. He should however remember that a dog’s bark is worse than its bite, or in this case, their audio recordings.

It is worth examining the characteristics of a dog to see what he may have meant. Most dogs are incredibly loyal, dedicated and loving. Farm dogs will work all day for you for just food, water and an occasional pat. Guard dogs will protect your property and maybe secrets without hesitation. Guide dogs will lead you to safety.

There are, however, some dogs that will turn on their owners, and the results can be tragic. The use of simplistic offensive words shows that the attack lacks substance and accurate details.

The lesson in life is a simple familiar one: if you haven’t got something nice to say, don’t say anything.

Dennis Fitzgerald
Melbourne, Australia

No one respects Omarosa but she is no different to any other Trump choice. Michelle Obama said “when they go low I go high”. Surely Trump’s motto will be “when they go low – I’m already beneath them”.

Amanda Baker

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