That's Racist: How the regulation of speech and thought divides us all by Adrian Hart

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That's Racist: How the regulation of speech and thought divides us all by Adrian Hart

Category: Politics and Society
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Thought provoking look at the idea that we are not divided by race but by the regulation of speech. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 136 Date: November 2014
Publisher: Imprint Academic
ISBN: 978-1845407551

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Adrian Hart has a long history of campaigning against racism, not least because he was subjected to racial abuse when he was at school. With jet-black hair and a complexion that was just slightly darker than was normal he was the closest that his school had to someone who might be of Pakistani origin. It was only name calling from a group of boys but the experience stuck and he's put much of his working life where his mouth is. So, you might expect that he would be a devotee of the zero tolerance approach to racist speech, but he's far from certain that this is the right way to go and believes that this might be causing more divisions in society than racism itself.

I grew up in a deeply racist household and cringe now to think back to the way that my parents referred to anyone who wasn't white and preferably English. Even speaking to 'one of them' would mean that I had my head in my hands to play with. It took me a long time to come to my own conclusions and longer still to overcome the automatic reactions hard wired in childhood, but I now know that life will be less rich if we don't all not just accept, but embrace that we are part of a multicultural society. It was in this frame of mind that I began reading That's Racist, sure that I was going to find demands that we work even harder to eliminate racism from our lives.

But I was wrong. It was the Macpherson Report, following the murder of Stephen Lawrence which advocated zero tolerance, but one of the most thought-provoking points which Hart makes is the thought that the murder might not have been racially motivated. A white man who witnessed the attack recollects his own fear that if it had not been Stephen, it might have been him, so it's quite possible that the killers were not intent on killing a black man, but simply intent on killing. But, be that as it may, we're now left with the aftermath of the Macpherson Report which has created a situation whereby schools are obliged to record instances of racially-motivated behaviour and this includes even such idiocies as a black boy and a mixed-race boy who call each other nigga because they think it's funny.

Hart makes the point that in the UK races co-exist, form friendships, work together, marry and produce children which would suggest that everything is moving in the right direction, but what is keeping us apart is the need to censor our speech in case we inadvertently fall foul of the racial-speech-or-thought police. And it is remarkably easy to do so: Hart gives plenty of examples of what happens in schools (and surely children should be allowed to be childish in the playground?) and covers other areas such as football. I had to laugh when he pointed out that some words are so common on the pitch that if a red card was given every time they were uttered the game might not last beyond ten minutes - and there might not be that many spectators left either. (I was accused of being racist recently. My bank card arrived without a white signature strip and when I rang to ask for a replacement I was put through to a far-Eastern call centre and was unable to explain the situation so that it was understood. Finally, I was told Mrs Mar-jee, I am telling you that you must sign on the behind of the card. When I repeated the story - which I found rather charming - to someone I was told that this was racist.)

It might seem obvious to anyone with a modicum of common sense that matters are being taken too far, but it's now reached a stage where even to suggest that debate would be useful means that you are in denial, that what we are seeing is only the tip of the iceberg and that matters must be pushed even further. I began reading this book thinking that I would be fired up about what needs to be done: now I've finished it I really believe that we need to take a step back and think again. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

This isn't the first Imprint Academic Book which I've begun with the thought that that my own prejudices were going to be confirmed and ended up with a complete rethink. Something very similar happened with There Is No Such Thing As A Free Press by Mick Hume.

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Buy That's Racist: How the regulation of speech and thought divides us all by Adrian Hart at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy That's Racist: How the regulation of speech and thought divides us all by Adrian Hart at Amazon.com.


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