We’ve all seen the way the media has been treating Megan Markle ever since she announced her engagement to Prince Harry – I don’t think its hyperbolic to say it’s anything short of harassment.
She has received countless examples of hate, prejudice and racism. That even a mixed race woman who can feasibly pass as being white is having their heritage used against her in the public eye shows we need to have some serious conversations about the state of race relations here in the UK.
Of course, the vitriol that was directed at Megan has now been extended to her days-old newborn son. Today, broadcaster Danny Baker has been fired by the BBC over “an unthinking gag”, in which he tweeted a photo likening the newborn royal baby to a chimpanzee. Unthinking? More like unspeakably racist and prejudiced.
Claiming ignorance has worked for many in the past (Liam Neeson is a recent example) but it won’t suffice this time. Even by Baker’s own reasoning that he “wasn’t thinking”, that his visceral reaction was to liken a baby of mixed heritage to a monkey is problematic to say the very least.
Baker is a comedian, and comedians make jokes. Comedians are also expected to recognise the implications of their so-called “jokes” and realise all of the different ways it can be interpreted. I, for one, do not buy his attempts to claim ignorance.
Danny Baker has also been fired by the BBC twice before, in 1997 and 2012. Neither of these occasions were because of racially fuelled hate speech (and yes, why wouldn’t we describe it as hate speech?) we still have to ask ourselves – why was he allowed to retain his platform for so long?
If it wasn’t already, it has become painfully obvious that a royal baby of dual heritage isn’t going to change racism at the ground level. There are many varied micro- and macro-aggressions that people of colour experience in the UK and archaic notions that are still prevalent in society. Sometimes we need sensationalised scandals to remind us that in the fight for racial equality, we still have some way to go.
Although racism in the UK might not be as forthcoming as racism in the US, sometimes it can be just as insidious. The simple fact that some people may find it acceptable to liken newborn babies to monkeys is unspeakably damaging. The animalisation of black people is a racial slur that can be traced back centuries. Today, Baker’s tweet perpetuates the image of black people being sub-human, inferior and ultimately subservient to their white counterparts.
The fact that Danny Baker tweeted that image in reference to the Royal Family shows that he will not accept any person of colour in any space that was previously held solely by white people.
From subconscious “othering” to blatant degrees of violent racism, Black British people face subtle and unsubtle forms of discrimination daily – whether that be a co-worker making disparaging comments about their ethnicity, or former BBC broadcasters invoking centuries-old prejudice.
Baker is a man who was in a position of influence and his actions will no doubt emboldened other racists. Black lives do matter here in the UK, and as does the mental and emotional state of all the Black British people who were reminded today that, for some, their race will always precede them.