FOR A brief moment on Sunday night #MeetTheUkippers was trending worldwide.
The reason? During a BBC documentary of the same name, UKIP’s South Thanet councillor Rozanne Duncan was explaining that while she was most definitely not a racist, she did have “a real problem with people of negroid features." She went on to say that she wouldn’t sit at a dinner table with a black person (still not a racist though!) and that she didn’t think there was any point in letting black kids take part in schemes to support 16-year-olds find work (still, of course, inevitably, not a racist). On Monday she appeared on LBC radio assuring listeners that it’s alright. She’s still not a racist. She just ‘doesn’t like to see negroid features.’ Oh, and she goes on holiday in the Caribbean. So she can’t be racist. OK?
This strange, sad woman quite clearly walks a creaky tightrope between being a hateful bigot and a monumental cretin.
I’ve a personal stake in disliking her – my son and wife are both mixed race, and I’ve had family living in Thanet since before the Second World War – long before Rozanne set foot in the area, as it happens. According to Duncan, my son is not welcome in the part of England where his grandparents live, his great grandparents lived, and his great great grandparents lived. Staggering.
God knows what she makes of the yearly Jamaican Independence Parties that have been taking place on Margate beach for the past half a decade. Maybe they take her back to those happy times in the Caribbean? Check it out -
Like all bigots, Rozanne excels in seeing the world how she wants it to be, rather than how it is. Despite the fact that black people have been living, working and holidaying in Thanet for decades, she claims there are none. Despite the fact that she won’t sit at a table with someone who’s melanin count offends her, she claims she’s not a racist.
As Twitter near collapsed under the weight of people lining up to give this bland, nasty simpleton a textual kicking, one theme emerged again and again – people (mostly my Caucasian brethren if I’m honest) expressed their shock at Duncan’s language. ‘Not in this day and age!’, they cried. ‘She’s a relic!’, they wept.
The thing is, Duncan isn’t unique.
She hasn’t emerged, a vacuum formed racist complete with bad spelling and crap clothes. Racists are not born, they’re made. And in Rozanne Duncan’s case, I’d suggest that she has been made by a culture that has spent four centuries justifying a history of sadistic colonialism by systematically perpetuating racist mythologies. This is a deeply unpopular thing to say in liberal London, where we’re all so very enlightened, but true nonetheless. There is a vague feeling that racism is ‘all in the past’.
While there is an acceptance that, say, the scientific racists of Victorian times were nasty little men intent on dressing hatred in lab coats, there’s scant willingness to engage with the very real ways opinion is still being shaped to defame those of African descent. Over the 70 odd years of her life, Rozanne will have found plenty of mainstream media support for her mindset.
No doubt she was chuckling along when they cracked jokes about ‘nig-nogs’ on Love Thy Neighbour in the 70s. The early 90s could have seen her scowling in disgust at Neville and Doreen Lawrence, as the police turned their efforts to smearing them rather than solving the murder of their son. Rozanne might even, at a push, remember the news stories from her 50s childhood, the tales of the terrible atrocities the Mau Maus were committing, as plucky Britain tried to keep the Kenyan colony tickety-boo. We now know that the rape, torture and brutal murder were very real. The British press just got who was doing it to whom a bit mixed up. Maybe she nodded in sage agreement as David Starkey announced that ‘the whites are turning black’ in the aftermath of the London riots. And perhaps, in the run up to the riots she tutted furiously at pictures of Mark Duggan, pictures where his daughter’s grave was artfully cropped out, his expression of mourning retold as a particularly British fantasy of ethnic menace.
Last week, Chelsea fans were doing the country proud on a train in Paris, and this week Rozanne Duncan is refusing to see how a psychotic dislike of one hugely diverse ethnic group could in anyway make her unfit for office. Britain, we have a problem. These people are the symptoms.
Until there is an engagement with the mentality that means my kid is still statistically more likely to get stopped and searched walking the streets than I ever was, until there is an attempt to recognise the pernicious ways in which the media still perpetuates negative stereotypes, and until Britain can have a grown up conversation with itself about its own bloody, conquistador history, then we will continue to create legions of Rozanne Duncans. And these ones may not be stupid enough to reveal themselves on camera.