Monday, July 03, 2006

BBC accused of blatant racism

Friday’s edition of the London Evening Standard - June 30th 2006 - (http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/) carries a story about the furore which erupted at a special screening of a new television drama by black writer Sharon Foster. Called Shoot the Messenger, it’s the story of a teacher’s attempts to save his black pupils from gangs, crime and under-achievement, and looks at the issue of the so-called ‘blame culture’ in Britain’s black community.

Toyin Agbetu, of the media campaign group Ligali, said: ‘The BBC is producing the most racist programme ever in its history. It has excelled itself.’ Others complained of the allegedly relentlessly negative portrayal of the black community.

Foster said: ‘When I wrote it, I thought, have I got the courage not to be liked?’ She added, ‘I’ve never been as afraid as I was writing this. One night I was shaking, thinking, ‘My God, they are going to kill me.’ But I wanted to say these things and I wanted to get the debate going.’
Whatever one’s view of the play – it’s to be screened in the autumn on BBC2 – and the problems it depicts, Foster is to be applauded for her nerve in tackling a sensitive area. But it’s also worth baring in mind that if the play had been written by a white author, it would in all probability never have been considered for transmission.


Tom Saxondale said...

Would a white author have the knowledge and the understanding to write something about this subject area?

Peter said...

You raise an interesting point Tom. However, it goes to the heart of much politically correct thinking, and the idea that an artist/writer has to be 'of' the social milieu, sex, ethnicity, nationality etc which he or she is writing about. I profoundly disagree. The logical conclusion of this approach would be that no black writer could ever write meaningfully about white society, which is obviously absurd, or for that matter, no male could ever really write a convincing female character. If that were the case, much of our literary heritage would collapse. And also, I should say as a gay man, that I thought Brokeback Mountain was one of the most affecting portrayals of a gay relationship that I've seen at the cinema - and it was directed by a straight man (based on a novel by a woman).

No, I think the point is that those in commissioning positions are governed by a fair amount of fear, and consequently self-censor; and at the base of it is this narrow-mindedness which sees 'identity politics' as being at the root of everything.

One further thought: I have never been to South Africa; would that mean that I wasn't allowed a view on apartheid?