Tag Archives: Racism

Another Big Brother, Another Racism Row

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Barely a week into the new series of Big Brother, the show has shot into the headlines again (and pulled in an extra million viewers) thanks to Emily, one of the contestants using “the N-Word� during a conversation with fellow contestants Charley and Nicky.

Thanks in no small part to the Shilpa Shetty controversy earlier in the year, although I suspect in part driven by the fact that at 3am Charley and Nicky were still discussing the incident – more concerned that Emily would be punished it seems – the producers took the decision to eject Emily and woke her up and removed her from the house in the early hours of Thursday morning.

There are a number of interesting observations about what has happened. Firstly Narinder, a housemate from Big Brother 2 is currently writing a book about the series interviewing former housemates about their experiences. She appeared this morning on BBC Breakfast to discuss this incident and said that every previous housemate from a racial minority, including herself, have had some sort of incident, but the majority have not been shown. She even highlighted that as part of the fight that occurred during Big Brother 5 that eventually required security guards to enter the house Emma used the same word as an insult towards Victor.

Her opinion was both that Channel 4 was both right to show the incident in full, and that they were right to eject Emily as a result, more-so having seen the incident on the highlights show. I think what is most shocking about what happens is that Emily really doesn’t understand quite how offensive the word is. When Nicky asks her where she is from (Bristol), Emily says that she and her friends use it all the time. Nicky, who was brought up in Watford says that the word would never be used where she came from. Emily also tries to justify it by stating that the word is used in many songs – which it is. Also worth considering is that Nicky is about ten years older than Emily. Whether it is something regional, or to do with the people Emily knows, or whether the use of the term in music has resulted in some groups not understanding the offence caused by the term I don’t know. Suffice to say that by not just editing it out this time, Channel 4 has certainly highlighted that the use of the word is offensive.

Having said that, whilst Emily has been ejected because her use of a word would be offensive to the viewing public, the Times BB Blog highlighted that people have expressed possibly offensive views without using offensive language. Certainly if they disciplined anyone who expressed an opinion that was either naive or offensive to one group in the same way as Emily was disciplined then there wouldn’t be many contestants left. However the question is what impression does that give to people watching about the relative importance of words as opposed to beliefs?

Big Brother Racism Fallout

Not surprisingly, as the first Sunday after Jade was evicted, we have more of the fallout from the events of the last week. Chief among them is the News of the World Exclusive, that main feature of this is ‘Jade on Trial‘ where they give her a surprisingly detailed questioning over all the controversial comments from herself, but also comments made by Jo, Danielle and Jack.

There are one or two other interesting points that have come out, firstly that Jade has visited India fairly recently as her perfume is manufactured in a factory over there and she wanted to visit the plant. Other interesting facts to come out are that according to the Guardian, Jade’s Mum is a practising Muslim – the quote stating this is about halfway down. The rest of the article is worth reading too, as it highlights quite what a problem Channel 4 now has with the perception that they let things go on longer than they should in order to boost ratings. Having said that, haven’t they always let this sort of thing go on longer than it should do boost ratings, remember the alcohol fuelled brawl in 2004 that earned a rebuke from Ofcom because they waited twenty minutes before sending in the security guards, an argument that was again underpinned by accusations of racism against Victor by Emma.

In terms of the ‘Was she told about what had happened?’ debate, Jade categorically denies this in the News of the World. Watching the highlights show for Friday it is clear that the housemates were aware something is going on as they appear to have been kept inside most of the day due to helicopters hovering over ahead. This coupled with both the lack of crowd noise, and the questions Big Brother had been asking them led them to conclude that something has been going on. Interestingly there were also discussions between the remaining two girls as to how they have been perceived too.

Of course as they will discover, their careers have just the same problems as Jade does – alongside the Jade interview, the News of the World has also said that Danielle has been ditched by Teddy Sheringham who is said to feel that he has been put in an impossible position with his team mates, who like many football teams are drawn from a range of different countries and backgrounds. Not surprisingly her contribution to the comments has left him ’embarrassed and deeply ashamed’.

In terms of looking for a positive outcome, the Education Secretary has said that schools should use the programme to tackle racial issues – and certainly suggest that with the number of young people who will have watched this week, youth groups could well use it as a topic for discussion. The Archbishop of York, himself invited to be on this series of the programme but who wisely passed, has commented on racism in the UK. It is fair to say that he is no stranger to the topic, I have always remembered him describing the number of times he was ‘randomly’ stopped by the police whilst driving his car when he was Bishop of Stepney, and the transformation in the behaviour of the officers when they found out who he was. His comments included the following:

“Sadly ignorance is not in short supply. Racism is real.

As the week’s events on reality television demonstrate, there is an ugly underbelly in society only too ready to point the finger at the foreigner, or those who might not fit in.â€?

Indeed, the leader in the News of the World makes a similar point – much as I said on Friday whilst large, there were still 18% of voters who voted to keep her in. They also want to see both Danielle and Jo booted out, and Shilpa to win.

Of course quite the most frightening part of this whole thing, is the fact that as a result, in the course of one posting, I’ve linked to, and approved of quite so much of what the News of the World has said… 😮