The Black & White Era


Readers of this blog (all 12 of them... on a good day) might be forgiven for thinking I do nothing but obsess over the politics of Doctor Who.  Undoubtedly, I do do that, and far too much of it.  However, in my defence, I will say that most of what I post here is the product of long-term, off-and-on, occasional, when-I-get-the-chance pondering and tinkering.  My last post, for instance, had been loitering in the 'Draft' category for months, getting steadily longer and more tendentious, before I posted it.  I spend a lot of the rest of my time thinking about and doing other stuff.  However, my practice of letting my 'essays' (I hate calling them that, but what else can I call them?) percolate means that I'm very bad at reacting quickly.  However, there are some things to which I desperately want to react quickly because I care about them so much... usually because they make me so ANGRY.

Luckily, there are people out there who

a) broadly share my political perspective,

b) are much cleverer and better informed than me, and

c) can react quickly.

So, on the subject of the recent synth-controversy and twitterstorm about Diane Abbott, here are three reactions which, between them, pretty much say everything I want said.

Here's Richard Seymour at Lenin's Tomb:

First of all, what Abbott said was, in a very loose sense, correct: 'white people' do indeed love to play divide and rule.  Not all of them, good lord no.  Not you or I.  Not the good whites (there are some good whites).  But I think we all know that there's a troublesome minority in our midst, the ones who give us all a bad name, whom we must root out and expose, and hand over to the authorities.  That's all I'm saying.  Second, I would rather have a politician who expresses things bluntly and occasionally blunders but is usually on the right side of the argument (Abbott, for all her flaws, is better than most Labour politicians in this respect), than a calculating mountebank who plays for position in the spectacle. 

Here's Michael Rosen at his new blog (which I fervently recommend, by the way):

As a broad statement about history, Diane Abbott is to my mind more or less right in that the elite that has ruled over the British Empire and continues to rule is of course 99.9 per cent white and one of the ways it has ruled was, say, to use black troops from one part of the empire to fight another, or to use 'mulatto' elites (as they were called) to rule over 'pure' black populations and so on. In terms of how Diane Abbott acts as a local MP - now an apologetic one - is for me less clear. I don't feel as if I tried to rule over her, trying to set black people against each other in the matter of education. To tell the truth, I felt that she did that herself. She set herself apart from all of us in Hackney at that time who were children or had children in state schools, many of whom were and are black.  Perhaps, there is a tortured argument to be made that the very reason why she felt she had to send her child to a private school is because of discrimination and racism. Her comments about white teachers would appear to suggest that, though  presumably most of the teachers at the private school were white too. Even so, I can't figure out how you fight racism that way.

That said, I would defend the broad political truth she was trying to express even though it needed clarifying. Depressingly, all we have now is the apology and the conversation we might have had about racism and society goes back a step. Yes, seeing her say sorry is much worse than the original tweet.

And here's Dorian Lynskey at 33 Revolutions Per Minute:

What this absurd flap demonstrates is the desperate longing of some privileged people to wear the rags of victimhood. Any whiff of black-on-white racism, like misandry and heterophobia, is an excuse for these delicate souls to downplay the dominant prejudice and argue that there is a level playing field of bigotry or, on the crazier fringes, that there is a “war” on white people/men/straight people/motorists, etc. Coming so soon after the Lawrence verdict, Abbottgate is a nasty attempt to pretend that, hey, there’s racism on both sides now. A black man gets knifed to death by a white mob; a black MP writes a carelessly worded tweet about white people. It all evens out.

Why is all this being peddled on a blog about Doctor Who?  Well, because it's my blog and I can do what I like with it and if you don't like it you can fuck off.  Also, because I've lost count of the number of times I've found myself, against my better judgement, embroiled in some fatuous 'debate' with fanboys about racism in Who, only to have the conversation veer inexorably towards just the kind of cretinous, self-pitying, entitled, complacent whingeing about 'political correctness' and 'reverse racism' being displayed in Abbottgate.  Such fanboys - you know, the ones who think Toberman isn't a racist depiction because he saves everyone and some of the white characters are also stereotypes - are no doubt fulminating about Abbott (if they've even poked their noses out into the real world long enough to sniff that much reality).

There really is nothing more revolting than privileged people complaining about the problems of being privileged and criticising the oppressed for daring to mention it.


vgrattidge-1 9 years ago

Big YUP from me. Read Seymour's yesterday. Good to see the others too.

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John 9 years ago

Ah, Season 4 and 5. For every Williams (10th Planet) and Fariah (EotW) there's a goddamn Toberman ("He's deaf. No wait, he's mute. No wait, he talks. Um, he's just black, okay?"). Alas.

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