Jan. 29th, 2009

thedivinegoat_archive: (Default)
Mainly because of this, (I would link to [livejournal.com profile] tnh's post, but she's locked it.)

Back in 2007 Lenny Henry made a show called Lenny's Britain, which was part stand up and part Lenny travelling around Britain talking to people about humour, specifically British humour.

(I've tried to find it online, but haven't had any luck, so this recap is based on purely on what I can I remember, and if I get anything badly wrong please correct and then forgive me.)

In one episode Lenny visits an Irish Pub in Wexford, where there's lots of drinking and singing and jollity. And at one point they started talking about racism. And one of the blokes starts telling Lenny how in Ireland Nigger isn't a racist term. And the other guys chime in - nigger's just a word they use, everybody says nigger and doesn't mean any harm. OK maybe in London and America you can't say nigger, but over here nigger doesn't mean all those things it means over there. (It was incredibly painful to watch)

And they are so damned earnest trying to explain that that they are not being racist, and how they really hate anyone racist. And they're nice blokes. They've been really fun, really welcoming.

And Lenny is sat there, trying not to show how shocked and upset he is. How much that word hurts him. Because it does. It hurts him badly. (Immediately after that scene he talks about how it made him feel, and I'm afraid I can't remember any more precisely than he was really, really upset).

None of those men in that Pub intent to hurt Lenny. None of them decided to use that word because they wanted to show "what they really thought of him". But it did. It did hurt him, it did upset him. And I hope that if any of those men watched the programme after it aired, they had the balls to write to him and say I'm sorry and I know better now.

So when so when someone says that because 's intent wasn't to be racist, and so his opponents have no right to an apology, and in fact should apologise to him?

Well, bollocks to that.

You are responsible for the consequences of your actions, and that includes inadvertent hurt caused by thoughtless/ignorant/misspoken words.

(Oh, and just because you've heard the 'if you accidentally stab someone' analogy lots and lots of times does not make it less true, in fact maybe it's time to consider that maybe, there could be, just the teeniest bit of truth to it? Or maybe not. Then you'd have to do something about all the hurt you've caused).

I get that it's easier to attack the detractors rather admit that you/someone you admire has done something hurtful to a large group of people, but hey it sucks to be a grownup sometimes. (I know I was bitching about being one last week when my kids had stomach upsets).

Anyway in lieu of Lenny's Britain, have some Lenny at the Apollo.

Lenny's Blog is over here and has some quite interesting stuff in it, one thing that caught my eye was this bit -

I talk about appearing in the black and white minstrels and how painful that was; the truth of it is, I wasn't advised about the whole thing - I was told the Minstrels would be a 'Good place to learn stage craft' mainly because the audience weren't there to see comics -they were there to hear the old songs and look at the shiny costumes. When I got out of the minstrels people talked to me like I'd been in Jail 'When'd you get out man?' 'You've lost weight.' 'Here's some money man-take it!'

It caught my eye, because in Dawn French's biography, it was very much presented as poor little black boy playing up to racist stereotypes because he didn't know any better, until he was rescue by the educated and enlightened white girl. I would dearly love to read Lenny's non-existent autobiography to get his thoughts on the subject.

I'm off to bed now for a restful night of putting Hannah back in bed, and persuading Rebecca that the monsters have gone home and aren't in her ceiling.


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