Tuesday 29 June 2010

England: And the coconut fell on her head

The Police Constable of Political Correctness
Sometimes I wonder where I have been on either side of the politically correct debate and have found that I have been on both sides and sitting on the fence.
In general, I don’t do politically correct, I do polite, I do respectful and sometimes with a tinge of what I would call the gentle English putdown.
A case in Bristol [1] was concluded recently that had a black Liberal Democrat councillor engaged in a heated debate with an Asian Conservative councillor predicated on the latter arguing that spending money today on trying to right the wrongs of slavery was wasteful.
The Liberal Democrat retorted that the Conservative would be termed a coconut, a term, sometimes derogatorily inferring someone who has abandoned one’s roots pandering to the seeming proclivities of another culture.
The myths and expectations
This matter goes deep and it would appear both councillors were somewhat unwise in their choice of words. Asians never really did suffer the ravages and consequences of slavery as much as Blacks did, so in a way her stance regardless of the objectivity of her argument was insensitive at best.
The use of the word “coconut” with the variant of “bounty” or “banana” which infers white on the inside and brown or yellow on the outside is as racist as one can get in jocular or formal council meeting environments, if that is how you want to be affected by it.
I was once called a bounty when a friend wanted me to offer an academic reference in his favour, when all I could do was give a character reference. I responded saying it was not the exclusive prerogative of the white man to be objective.
A broad political church
Furthermore, ethnic minorities cannot be expected to be exclusively left-wing or left-leaning, we are borne of different circumstances and opportunities that it is very possible for us to be right-leaning and conservative with the option to join political parties of that stratum and represent people from that perspective.
The idea that ethnic minorities are trying to be whiter than the whites is sometimes atrocious; as if one can be accused of being blacker than the blacks. If one was born abroad and has spent more than half one’s life in that society one would think that person were fully integrated in the dominant culture rather than be holdouts of a sub-culture which might no more be representative of its origins.
The question then becomes why should I only be defined and identified purely by my racial colour and no inference to the varied cultures in which I have lived and the content of my character which is usually not worn on the face or skin?
Back where we started
We need to move on from race and deprivation politics and accentuate the better parts of our co-existence. The Conservative councillor could well have mollified her argument in favour of cuts in more temperate language not creating the situation where latent grievances of the pasts are allowed to surface with politically damaging consequences.
The sad situation too is evident in the fact that the Conservative councillor had hardly moved out into post-cultural self-assuredness, she took offence where she could have been above the fray. People defined by being unsure of their roots still find that they are easily offended at every seeming slight and hardly possess the wit to deflect the barbs.
I suppose race still holds sway in many matters that affect ethnic minorities regardless of how long they have lived in their host societies where they are probably supposed to be fully integrated, if not assimilated.
The coconut is cracked open
The wider implications of the case, the prosecution and the sentence border on elements of free speech, expression, urban usage and context – in some circles, this is political correctness gone mad but if anything, either coconut or banana must learn the nuances of being politely rude rather than being politically incorrect. It is probable that neither is even whiter on the inside yet, how interesting, that would be to all concerned.
As the saying goes amongst the Yoruba of West Africa who were probably the most decimated and plundered in terms of slavery with outposts of that culture in Cuba and Brazil – he whose head has been used to crack the coconut is not going to partake in the eating of it.
Figuratively, she threw a coconut and it landed on her head – What a pity, as the English smiled wryly at all the fuss.

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