[…]

Just wanted to quickly highlight this excellent Comment is Free piece by Marina Hyde on the racism row that has erupted surrounding the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing. One of the dancers, Anton Du Beke, told his partner she looked like a ‘paki’ following a spray tan. Du Beke has issued an apology, but the ever-embarrassing presenter Bruce Forsyth responded with the line: ‘we used to have a sense of humour about this’. Hyde says:

The thing that Brucie and his ilk so stubbornly fail to understand is that the cultural memories of centuries of abuse do not evaporate quickly. They are what Barack Obama called the “legacy of discrimination” – an inheritance which becomes for so many a legacy of defeat.

The reactions of the “lighten up” brigade come down to that lazy inability to see that just because a word is spoken — or a sketch performed — in non-malicious jest, it can nonetheless cause deep hurt and offence. Perhaps in the mouth of Anton Du Beke, “Paki” is merely half the word Pakistan, as it is to many who have stormed the talkboards. But in the ear of others, “Paki” is something quite different. It is the word that once rained down in playgrounds or football terraces or streets, and frequently still does in our far-from-civilised society. The stubborn refusal to admit to those historic associations is a tacit perpetuation of them. This is how, long after legislation has addressed the wrongs of the past, one generation still manages to pass the discrimination furtively on to the next.