Racism and Hate Rear Ugly Heads in Britain

Over the past week there has been a string of controversies dominating the airwaves of Britain; indeed, if you live in the United Kingdom you will be blissfully unaware of the "stimulus bill" turmoil on Capitol Hill. In recent weeks our news cycle has revolved around the national crisis over a blizzard and the ensuing absence of grit, snow tires, and plows; the tragic death of Baby P; and the firing of Chelsea boss Luis Felipe Scolari. As this article goes to press Britain may very likely see the demise of the venerable Lloyds Bank (born 1765) and Halifax Bank of Scotland (born 1695), and a quote by Gordon Brown made in 1992 has come back to haunt him: "A weak currency arises from a weak economy, which in turn is the result of a weak government." But there are other stories to boggle the mind.

As I reported in Pajamas Media, the disgraced BBC presenter Jonathan Ross suffered a three-month suspension. He had been stewing at home because he co-hosted with Russell Brand a BBC radio show in which a series of obscene telephone calls was made to the actor Andrew Sachs. No sooner had Ross returned to work at the end of January than he made lewd remarks about sexual adventure with an 80-year-old woman. Calls were made to the BBC for him to be fired. So far he is still in gainful employment and has even hosted the BAFTA Awards.

The British actor Ricky Gervais angered Golden Globe audiences on January 13 by issuing forth with a crack, "Holocaust movies get you awards." Ricky's compatriot Sacha Baron Cohen made tasteless jokes about Madonna and, to the astonishment of attendees, Gervais carried on backstage with cracks about the Holocaust.

But the cherry on the sundae came in early February when Carol Thatcher, daughter of the former prime minister, said she thought a French tennis player resembled a "golliwog," a disparaging word that describes a black person. (Golliwog dolls still sell around the world and an antique dealer who used to work from Alfie's Antique Market in London once told me the biggest deals he did for Golly dolls were with buyers of African extraction.) All hell broke loose in Britain and Carol Thatcher's slip of the tongue, in the green room at the BBC, even made the rarified discussion roster of BBC's Question Time, the prestigious television debate program.

The radio and television airwaves have been filled with listeners' views on the racism of Carol Thatcher, and on February 6 she was told she would no longer be employed by the BBC. There has been wide debate as to whether a remark made in the privacy of an anteroom in a studio constitutes grounds for dismissal.

Carol Thatcher's formative years were spent in an era that is still alive and well because her generation runs this country. The irony of this major news story is this: despite the many tirades expatriate Americans in Europe receive about their racist legacy, the United States has produced a vast array of world-famous African-Americans, culminating in the election of Barack Obama by a white populace whose average age is that of Carol Thatcher. Moral of the story: Europe has a long way to go.