Monday, 18 June 2012

African British: If You Aren't Being 'De-selected' Or Stereotyped, They Remember To Honour Some Of Your Lot!

With the London Olympics 2012 and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations just round the corner, we can expect to hear the sound of jingoism. African British athletes are bound to be well represented in the Olympics publicity, whereas Africans will generally be invisible in mainstream publications highlighting Britain.

Indeed, on Sunday June 17 2012, I breezed through the Alkemi African market in Willesden, where I met co-organiser Bro Ra. Pretty much the first thing he said to me was that we had been “deselected”, before explaining by showing me a multi-page spread in Sunday’s Observer newspaper looking at the issue of Britishness. What he meant by being "de-selected" was that not one African or part African was among the 5 subjects highlighted. 

"It is a summer for celebrating Britishness, but in many ways our identity has never been more complex. In the wake of the Queen's diamond jubilee and before the Olympics, we asked five young people to debate the issue." That's how Yvonne Roberts' article starts off. Click to read:  'What does it mean to be British - and does it matter?'.

Interestingly, on the same day, the Voice Online provided a counterpoint with  'Great Britain...?' 

With “Rule Britannia, Britannia, rule the waves! Britons never, never, never shall be slaves!” ringing in his ears, Nelson Abbey got his friend and acquaintances to give their take on Britain

"The self-congratulation was intoxicating. The air was thick with patriotism and there was little room for dissenting thought. It was one hell of a terrible weekend for ‘fans’ of democracy and meritocracy.

"Almost everyone who spoke to the roaming reporters on the endless broadcast of the Diamond Jubilee had something lovely to say about Britain and, of course, the Queen. It was a very polished affair. As a result of this, I was left wondering what would happen if one of these reporters canvassed opinion from people other than the traditional flag-waving, celebrity-worshiping monarchists."

One of the responses reads as follows: "Great Britain - A country where black Americans are treated like royalty whilst black Britons are treated like servants."

The day before, the Voice Online published  'More than gangsters', in which Elizabeth Pears highlighted "The rise of black online shows offering positive alternatives to mainstream TV." This is happening as an antidote the mainstream media's predilection for offering a fare of stereotypical African images. She began by revealing some of the damaging effects of this portrayal: "New US research suggests extensive television watching can damage black children’s self-esteem – thanks to mainstream productions that rely on lazy stereotypes of black people."

In spite of being generally ignored, and stereotyped, a few do get the Establishment honours. In the Queen's Birthday Honours List published last weekend, the likes of singer-songwriter Omar and actor/playwright Kwame Kwei Armah, were respectively honoured with an MBE for sevices to music and OBE for services to drama.   

Well, it's something to think about.



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