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Celebrity racism and race towards equality

Let me get this straight. Equality is different from diversity.


Allan Jacob

Published: Tue 23 Mar 2021, 11:26 PM

While some of us cannot get over a royal fairytale that failed and is playing out in TV studios and on social media, I shall refrain from colouring my opinions. My use of ‘fair’ in this story could even be misinterpreted in the charged cultural context amid racial sensitivities.

Yet we want celebrities and the noble elite to fight for us from their ivory towers. They raise the pitch against racism that we latch on to and believe change is in the air. But if you think there’s a revolution brewing against racism after recent attacks against Asian-Americans in the US and the royal controversy, think again.

Racial tensions may be simmering and remains in the mass consciousness but conscience is lacking on how to treat people right, equally, and with dignity and respect. Such incidents are just talking points for online revolutionaries without a face. They serve to make us realise how different we are, and distanced and distracted we can get from reality about the state of equality and civil rights.

Let me get this straight. Equality is different from diversity. While we are more accepting of diversity and differences in workplaces, we are less than equal in our communities. But we get it. Racism is bad, racism is evil and racism in any form must be stamped out. The trouble is: we find it hard to move on from history while sitting in judgement (mostly at home) in the pandemic era that has changed everything about the world we have known.

Yes, inequalities have been made worse during the pandemic and the global vaccination campaign. The vaccine-haves and the have-notes have been separated; continents and countries are jabbing over who will get them first. The US is vaccinating in a hurry, so is Britain and India, but most of Africa has been left out of the process. A case of vaccine nationalism leading to vaccine racism?

Meanwhile, the media and the crowd who believe they matter (on social media) are divided on both sides of the Atlantic about royals and race, while the rest of the world, including Asia and Africa are in the grip of pandemic fatigue. They were also victims of systemic racism when colonialism held sway, yet feudal systems continue in many countries, poverty is rampant and inequality is a way of life. And this inequality breeds modern racism.

Yet, we give media space to a royal story of privilege and alleged racism that is unproven. There was a duchess who wanted her son to become a prince. She raised the issue of racism against the House of Windsor that was denied, royally. The allegations led to some with ‘cancellations’ in celebrity circles. The House was in crisis, some said. Others backed the monarchy and the institution’s streak with tradition.

A popular talk show host got himself ‘cancelled’ following the furore and moral grandstanding that enveloped the discourse. He stomped off his own set and set the stage for another. Meanwhile, another talk show on the other side of the Atlantic, in the United States, was suspended. Here’s why? One of the American show’s hosts was a friend of the original British host who cancelled himself from his own show because he was a former friend of the original accuser. Sharon Osbourne didn’t support racism but backed Piers Morgan who once knew Meghan Markle the Duchess of Sussex.

Moral of the story: connections and associations, both perceived and real could lead to loss of reputation in what is known as ‘cancel culture’ among elites and intellectuals and wannabe who trawl social media to milk every drop of celeb status that it affords them and their ilk. Many are left to rue in silence after their fall from virtual grace.

What’s left to cancel out, I wonder when the coronavirus has made us see each other differently. I run the risk of being branded a racist for my (perceived) insensitivity without a sliver of proof and my spate of denials will only get me mass condemnation on social media. And the accuser often gets away if the accused is a celebrity. The bigger they are, the harder they are expected to fall. “I may have been a celebrity victim of racism despite my status in life. I deserve to be heard,” is what the royal elite are saying, and we are playing into their hands while ignoring the less fortunate amongst us.

It’s time to call the celebrity bluff and get to the root cause of modern racism: inequality, poverty and the lack of economic opportunity that has only become more pronounced during the pandemic. The elitist conversation about colour is a diversion and the focus should be back on equality for all races.


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