[old friend]

(white man, middle-class, 67 years old, raised as a Jew)

…. sends me (white man, middle-class, 66 years old, raised as a Roman Catholic)

an email in response to my previous email containing a link to an obscure video ‘The Melting Pot’, written by Neil Shand and Spike Milligan in 1975 . It is very dated and poor quality, comprising the two main characters, played by Milligan and John Bird – both wearing brown makeup and speaking in typecast ‘stupid Indian’/’Peter Sellers-esque’ accents.

The pilot show never saw the light of day after its first broadcast, despite many episodes having been recorded. Perhaps the BBC thought it was well below Spike Milligan’s usually funny standards. Perhaps its racist humour finally propelled it into the dustbin of history… At the time, many TV shows were being broadcasted, reflecting in full sight, the public’s appetite for racist comedy accepted in the mainstream.

Unwisely I sent it to the [old friend], he is a big fan of Spike Milligan.

So, in response to this, the [old friend] replies:


[old friend]

How about the fros [sic] in the audience in this? Come on…


me
[I’m] Reading this at the moment…

[person_b] chose this excellent book for her book group. You might like to read it?

here is a taster…

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/30/why-im-no-longer-talking-to-white-people-about-race


[old friend]

I’m afraid whoever wrote that piece is over-simplifying a very complex issue in my opinion. As someone from a BAME community and who grew up in the second half of the last century, I cannot relate to the feelings of that article.

it’s very easy to judge other people. Judgmental indeed. ‘Unable to embrace a person of colour as an equal’ – what nonsense. Maybe people don’t treat me – a Jew – as equal. I’m not going to stop talking to Goys about religion.

Sorry.

(editor’s note: is [old friend] really sorry here?)


me

Hi [old friend],

.... "How about the fros in the audience in this?" .....

Not sure I understand you:

1.

"As someone from a BAME community" 

BAME stands for Black Asian and Minority Ethnic…

Interestingly the term is not clear cut for Jews; the Jewish Chronicle article acknowledges it is not so clear cut. However, the fact that you are not Black or Asian has not held you back as it might have done if you were. The JC mentions strict orthodox Jews might not blend in quite so easily but having a white skin as you (and I) have affords us with many advantages over people of colour. You would fall into the police IC code classification as W1, white British

https://www.thejc.com/comment/opinion/jews-are-bame-too-but-what-does-it-really-mean-1.463855

https://policeauthority.org/metropolitan/publications/briefings/2007/0703/index.html

2.

"grew up in the second half of the last century" 

– so did I, what is your point here [old friend]? Perhaps we both have to learn and move on.

I went to a state school with a highly diverse cross section of races and classes and I quickly learned a lot from age 13 reasonably fair impression of the London population with all its frictions and problems. Skinheads beat me up and I befriended many black and less advantaged children. I was very lucky to come from a comfortable middle-class home and would not have been given the countless second chances in my life had I not been born white with parents with money and a good education. I had my own issues to deal with on a personal level and this has come to the fore in recent weeks as you know – had I been from a BAME community, how might my life have turned out? Prison probably, with my brain chemistry.

I respect the fact that you cannot relate to the feelings of the article. The sad fact is, they are not feelings. They are based on historic facts and findings e.g. Sir William Macpherson’s Inquiry where institutional racism in the police was highlighted.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-stephen-lawrence-inquiry

There are many others as well. These are not feelings.

I don’t think judging was ever my intention. I responded to your email having by my bed (I am halfway through Ms Eddo-Lodge’s book) and find it essential reading for anyone who is white to read. This is not simply an article but a landmark book (my opinion!) that everyone, in my view could be given to children to read as part of their curriculum, just as we were made to read Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm and 1984 when I was 11.

The Spike Milligan (video I sent him) “The Melting Pot” pilot show made in 1975 (seems older than that…), it illustrates for me how much society has changed with regard to attitudes to people of colour. Many thousands of Indians fought in WW1 – many died of frostbite as they were inadequately clothed when ships took them to colder, northern latitudes. Spike affectionately pokes fun (perhaps rather tediously) at the Indian stereotypes pitching worn out tropes and gags – I see the film as an example of how far we have come from there. Witness also how other changes in our world have taken place e.g. laws on same sex marriage, preceded by changes in the laws on homosexuality, LBGT rights and so on…

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1967/60/contents

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/homosexuality-at-the-foreign-office-1967-to-1991

The video is blurry and not particularly funny but I thought it was an oddity that actually never even saw the light of day as the BBC never took it past this obscure pilot. The first chapter in Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race is about the cruelty and terrible past inflicted on people of colour, the book gets even less comfortable to read, but that is not a reason any intelligent person would use to avoid reading it. Jews have been oppressed throughout the ages, [person_b] and I, during our visit to Israel 2 years ago visited the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and it was one of many unforgettable experiences we had while we were out there, including the plight of Palestinians when we visited Hebron and Ramallah. (https://tours.imj.org.il/en/the-museum-and-its-exhibitions/). I intend in no way to undermine the plight of the Jews – that also is another huge issue we all carry with us. We face a multitude of worldwide problems as we emerge slowly from lockdown, facing a deteriorating climate and the fallout following the murder of George Floyd.

I have ordered a copy of Reni Eddo-Lodge’s book for you to read, and I hope you find the time to read it. It should arrive in a day or so.

Then write to me and tell me what you think… I mean this with all love and compassion.

your old mate,

J


[old friend]

Hi James,

Hi [old friend],

.... "How about the fros [sic] in the audience in this?" .....

Not sure I understand you:

1. As someone from a BAME community" BAME stands Black Asian and Minority Ethnic

Interestingly the term is not clear cut for Jews; the Jewish Chronicle article https://www.thejc.com/comment/opinion/jews-are-bame-too-but-what-does-it-really-mean-1.463855 acnowledges [sic] it is not so clear cut. However, the fact that you are not Black or Asian has not held you back as it might have done if you were. The JC mentions strict orthodox Jews might not blend in quite so easily but having a white skin as you (and I) have affords us with many advantages over people of colour. You would fall into the police IC code classification as W1, white British (https://policeauthority.org/metropolitan/publications/briefings/2007/0703/index.html)

Yes but Abi Symons’ article makes it clear that there are confusions; and being Jewish subjects one to horrible accusations. It may not hold you back but it sure lowers your self-esteem, especially when at school.

2."grew up in the second half of the last century" - so did I, what is your point here [old friend]? Perhaps we both have to learn and move on.

I went to a state school with a highly diverse cross section of races and classes and I quickly learned a lot from age 13 reasonably fair impression of the London population with all its frictions and problems. Skin heads beat me up and I befriended many black and less advantaged children. I was very lucky to come from a comfortable middle-class home and would not have been given the countless second chances in my life had I not been born white with parents with money and a good education. I had my own issues to deal with on a personal level and this has come to the fore in recent weeks as you know - had I been from a BAME community, how might my life have turned out? Prison probably, with my brain chemistry.

As you, I grew up in a multi-cultural community* and, as a hippy**, had many black musicians as my icons (still do). I worked for many years in Brixton and spent much of that working life in the black Caribbean community there, so I don’t want anyone telling me that I am oblivious to their issues.

(*all boys public school, very few people of colour) (**Untrue)

I respect the fact that you cannot relate to the feelings of the article. The sad fact is, they are not feelings. They are based on historic facts and findings e.g. Sir William Macpherson's Inquiry where institutional racism in the police was highlighted. 

(https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-stephen-lawrence-inquiry).

There are many others as well. These are not feelings.

There are many ways of interpreting historical facts. If you read the excellent Jeremy Black, you will understand this, and also that everyone has a different perpective. This all makes for lively and healthy debate, however they are definitely ‘feelings’/opinions.

I dont think judging was ever my intention. I responded to your email having by my bed (I am halfway through Ms Eddo-Lodge's book) and find it essential reading for anyone who is white to read. This is not simply an article but a landmark book (my opinion!) that everyone, in my view could be given to children to read as part of their curriculum, just as we were made to read Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm and 1984 when I was 11.

I didn’t mean that you were judgemental. I mean that the author was. I repeat I do not want anyone telling me that white people don’t understand race.

The Spike Milligan The Melting Pot pilot show made in 1975 (seems older than that...), it illustrates for me how much society has changed with regard to attitudes to people of colour. Many thousands of Indians fought in WW1 - many died of frostbite as they were inadequately clothed when ships took them to colder, northern latitudes. Spike affectionately pokes fun (perhaps rather tediously) at the Indian stereotypes pitching worn out tropes and gags - I see the film as an example of how far we have come from there. Witness also how other changes in our world have taken place e.g. laws on same sex marriage, preceded by changes in the laws on homosexuality, LBGT rights and so on.. https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1967/60/contents , https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/homosexuality-at-the-foreign-office-1967-to-1991). The film is blurry and not particularly funny but I thought it was an oddity that actually never even saw the light of day as the BBC never took it past this obscure pilot. The first chapter in Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race is about the cruelty and terrible past inflicted on people of colour, the book gets even less comfortable to read, but that is not a reason any intelligent person would use to avoid reading it. Jews have been oppressed throughout the ages, [person_b] and I during our visit to Israel 2 years ago visited the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and it was one of many unforgettable experiences we had while we were out there, including the plight of Palestinian when we visited Hebron and Ramallah. (https://tours.imj.org.il/en/the-museum-and-its-exhibitions/). I intend in no way to undermine the plight of the Jews - that also is another huge issue we all carry with us. We face a multitude of worldwide problems as we emerge slowly from lockdown, facing a deteriorating climate and the fallout following the murder of George Floyd.

Maybe you read my piece about the Jews in my biog*., but Islamic fundamentalism is a huge problem (read Churchill’s take on Islam https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/69212-how-dreadful-are-the-curses-which-mohammedanism-lays-on-its), but I repeat: In the current state of affairs, Israel is surrounded by hostility on every border and in every direction. Vast tracts of Arab land surround a tiny oasis, and yet still they want that tiny oasis for themselves and to force its people, who have been subject to persecution throughout their history, into the sea. It is true that with Judaism the great cultural heritage with which I started this piece can also take the form of extreme religious zealotry. Perhaps this is true of all humanity. But I would like to take the good bits – the humour, the intellect, the banter, indeed the Chutzpah, and pass them on to my children; and dump the bad. And for this, I suspect that Israel needs to endure.

*(this was a self published booklet that [old friend] posted to his friends)

I have ordered a copy of Reni Eddo-Lodge's book for you to read, and I hope you find the time to read it. It should arrive in a day or so.

Then write to me and tell me what you think... I mean this with all love and compassion.

Call it denial, but I’m afraid it’s not for me my old mate. xx


me
“Yes but Abi Symons' article makes it clear that there are confusions; and being Jewish subjects one to horrible accusations. It may not hold you back but it sure lowers your self-esteem, especially when at school.”

Yes, I have always had low self-esteem as well [old friend]! I have always sensed a deeper love between us, trust and mutual respect. I singled out and befriended people who accepted me as I was at the time. I remember you telling me how I should ignore another people’s disapproval. I still totally value your love and loyalty, despite us not seeing ‘eye-to-eye’ on some things.

Another aspect of your personality is a two-sided coin: insofar you have established yourself as a respectable, respected academic with lots to be proud of. The flip side of this is that you have given me an impression that you have grown to be inflexible and somewhat pompous (I feel I share a tendency towards pomposity as well!). Having achieved a firm grip on the ‘slippery pole’, jolly good, well done sir. Achieving a useful reputation is often accompanied by responsibilities; you hold a fragment of power and to some extent, influence and determine the fate of others.

In an academic context, do you not think you would find it inconsistent and flawed to refuse to examine the response of another’s position, endorsed into a discussion? If only to understand a prevailing concern that affects us all?

I only say this because you have refused to read the book I am sending you, unwilling to reflect and respond in a considered way. Shutting the door on this leaves me extremely uncomfortable, confirming your impressions and opinions on the world to me.

Or to put it another way, I believe that any person working in higher education would be better informed having read Eddo-Lodge’s book.

During my time at Goldsmiths, the issue of racism in the university showed itself in July 2019 when students demonstrated and the outcome was for the Warden to respond.

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/jul/05/uk-universities-condemned-for-failure-to-tackle-racism

This was her response to the action:

https://www.gold.ac.uk/students/dth-protest-college-response/open-letter-29-july-2019

The persecution of the Jews goes back centuries, before the birth of Christ. The Jews were presented as a race by Hitler. They are not a race; they are a family held together by a covenant with God accepted at Mount Sinai. They share a history of oppression and cruelty with people of colour. The political struggles with the nation of Israel continue and hold great sway on the only one race – the human race. Today, you reminded me of your quote re. Israel, yes, the religious zealotry is distasteful – the collective family traits of intelligence and humour is for us to celebrate… BUT political and cultural tensions that exist in the Middle East is tangential to the alarming increase and mainstream acceptance of white supremacy in the last 4 years. However racist tropes and gags are unacceptable and I will challenge them rather than stay silent.

I appreciate the point you made around the time you worked at [redacted] etc. You worked with and befriended black people, love black music – of course, [old friend]. The challenge we all share is that white supremacy still exists. 

The (albeit polemic style) that Eddo-Lodge is proposing is that all white people face an internal struggle with a skewed system that needs change. [person_b] asked me to read it last summer but I resisted it, too focused elsewhere. Since then, the stakes have ratcheted up this summer so I was drawn to read it, (aided with my pharmacologically improved powers of concentration!). [The important book of 2019 for me was Professor Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, inspiring my work in my second year].

[person_b] has recommended a more studious academic work;

Me and White Supremacy: How to Recognise Your Privilege, Combat Racism and Change the World

bless her, I will be reading that next.

Just to lighten the tone… this a favourite gag we both laughed at:

If anything comes back from [old friend], I will post an update.

 

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