The Bandwagon Effect Is Harming Race Relations

21/10/2013 12:49 BST | Updated 23/01/2014 23:58 GMT

Conversations are now elevated and scrutinized in an amphitheatre of social media. There are those that spectate, speculate, and jump on the bandwagon - whether that's with good intentions, or to kill the show. The Internet means that people don't forget words, and events are recorded forever at the end of a web search. Over time, the moment, context and goodwill crumbles away.

While animals are content with marking their territory, we like to label things. The problem is, we make too many - some are dross, others wear out. Terms like, 'political correctness', 'Moderate' and 'Extremist' - with the next crop to come.

This is not me saying that we should live in a world of no labels - but if they make no sense, are misunderstood and do more harm than good, why bother? Even initially positive terms like 'propaganda' fall to the dark side of the force - at it was first coined by the Roman Catholic church in 1622 as a strategy to celebrate the 'good news' of their faith in response to dwindling numbers.

So fashion is a big thing. Terms like 'coloured fella', 'black man', 'person of colour' all had their time. Using the wrong one is worse than wearing a kipper tie to a Mods' or 1980's party - when everyone else has a pencil piano tie.

For me, the history behind the term 'race' transforms Homo sapiens from being one species into thinking of ourselves more as being from different species. Racialism, xenophobia and supremacism have labelled ethnic groups and women as biologically different; in order to support fallacious conflations denoting different linked emotional dispositions and intellectual aptitudes - meaning no hope and hopeless. Watching a Django Unchained scene is a timely reminder of this.

But what's the problem now? We have black ('politically' including +brown +yellow) footballers, singers, newsreaders, and a US president. People eat curry, love Usain Bolt and talk JaFAKEan. But then again there's a shop owner who still hangs a sign warning people that she's black to avoid jaw-drops; and racism in football remains, most noticeable in the paucity of ethnic football managers.

We cringe at programmes like 'Mind Your Language' now. But whilst we're scared of offending, the format lives on. Also, Enough water has gone under the bridge for Germans to watch ''Allo 'Allo' with mixed reactions. Citizen Khan may not be some Pakistani's cup of chai, feeling like Pakistani bashing - but do these same Pakistanis laugh at the black-bashing jokes made by Richard Pryor, Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, Dave Chapelle etc.?

Okay, so maybe it's easy to find the humour when it's not your people. Some British Asians found Ali G funny, before they went to work the next day and were part of the joke - getting greeted with a 'Yo' and a thumb grabbing reverse handshake, whilst others receive a normal shake. Oh no, being Blackistani meant you were scary and bad at maths! But there again, if being black gets you a MOBO award, suddenly being a strong black person is all good again.

Some cultures are better at withstanding the views of others, or their dirty laundry being aired in public. As a Scot, I'm used to us celebrating being the wallowing underdogs, as our own worst critics. Living in England, we are seasoned in accepting defeat with dignity. But some cultures are less willing - and I don't see why they have to follow suit.

UK employment law defines race as including colour, ethnicity, nationality, and citizenship. If we consider more legally protected characteristics, such as: age, disability, gender, religion, and sexual orientation - and then test those same race arguments against them, do they still stack up?

Should women be grateful (and content) with us having a Queen, some businesswomen, female icons and leaders - and accept discrimination as a fact of life? When the media reports black on black violence with exoticism - are we also going to get women on women violence, or disabled on disabled violence?

Has the race to end racism run its course? Does what works for lawyers and academics work elsewhere? Can we be colour blind, or are we being blinded by colour? Is Obama a black president, with a Muslim middle name, or mixed race? Well, if I'm being cynical, it depends on whether he's done something good or bad - no matter what part of the world you're from.

Race relations are complicated, people get their wires crossed, and sometimes the harder you try the worse it makes things. But they shouldn't be reasons to stop. We all need to preserve a sense of fluidity, empathy, optimism, patience, goodwill, forgiveness and humour. Also a key factor is how minorities respond to curiosity, criticism and suspicion - even if unfair.