Racism and Lewis Hamilton

It's hard to think of any racists who aren't pathetic physical and mental specimens, proving beyond

There has been some more furore about Spanish racism towards Lewis Hamilton. I hate racism and everyone in Spain is racist and so I hate them all. Which isn't racist, because the Spanish are not a race. What I am is xenophobic and generalising and wrong.

But not as stupid and wrong as ALL Spanish people. All right, let’s be fair – SOME Spanish people.

The recent Spanish stupidity has meant though that the papers have reprinted this unbelievable picture of some Spanish people cleverly mocking Hamilton with a sophisticated satire.

It not only confounds me that anyone could be allowed to do such a thing and not be stopped by the people around them, but it also demonstrates how stupid racists are. In fact it's hard to think of any racists who aren't pathetic physical and mental specimens, proving beyond doubt that the idea of white supremacy is bogus. They prove the opposite of what they believe just by their own existence.

I mean, look at that picture and consider what must have gone through these Spanish idiots' heads. "Hey, I hate Lewis Hamilton. How can we satirise him?"

"Hmmm, hang on, he is a black man. Why don't we dress up as black people, by painting our faces, but nothing else including our necks, black? That will show him!"

"But how will he know who we are meant to be?"

"Let's all wear T-shirts that say "Hamilton's Family" on them."

"Yeah, brilliant. But let's make sure that they look pathetically home made and that we spell family with two l's"

"Yes. But what will be saying exactly by doing this?"

"We'll be saying that Lewis Hamilton is black and so are his family. That will show him."

"Is that really enough? I mean surely he would know that he is black and in any case, isn't his mother white?"

"You're right, it's not enough. For the satire to work and to make him, not us, look stupid, we'll have to put some real effort into the costumes. All the money we have saved on T-shirts and an English dictionary we can spend on getting some authentic wigs to give us the appearance of black people. Now what kind of wigs should we get?"

"Let's get a load of grey wigs. That's the kind of hair that black people have. They all have grey hair."

"Yes, brilliant. That will show him. We will have successfully satirised him then. It will be like him looking in a mirror and seeing his family staring back at him."

"Oh wait and let's get some thick spectacles as well...."

"Why?"

"Because it will make Hamilton look stupid. Not us. Him."

What is truly incredible about this is not just that they thought this was a good idea, but not one single idiot amongst them was a clever enough idiot just to take one step up the ladder of idiocy and say, "For our brilliant joke to work,shouldn't we really at least get some big, black Afro wigs so we look like we're in the Jackson 5. Rather than these grey ones, which are a bit confusing to be honest. Are we just saying that all Hamilton's family are old?"

"Not just old. They have very bad eye sight too."

"Do they? I mean if we want to be racist and funny, surely we have to do a bit better. I mean, for example, we could wear monkey masks, implying that black people are monkeys, rather than just implying black people are black.... with grey hair.... and bad eyesight. Which I don't think I've ever heard anyone say."

"No, no. Just painting our faces black is a much better satire. Lewis Hamilton is going to look like a right prick now. Don't forget we've got "Hamilton's Familly" written on our T shirts. We're really showing the world who the worst fucking idiots in the world are."

"Hamilton and his "familly"?"

"Yes, exactly. I can't wait to see the photos of this. We are going to look brilliant."

The fact that I, a non-racist, can immediately think of "better" racist jokes to make, shows how ignorant and pathetic all racists are. They are a subclass of morons and I really think the world would be a better place if we could gather all the people who are stupid enough to think that their race is superior to any of the others and make them go and live on an island somewhere. Entertainingly there would be racists of every different colour on this new Eden and they'd have to fight things out between them. Whilst the rest of us, who don't think that just having a different coloured skin to someone else is worth remarking on can get on with trying to resolve more important issues.

My favourite racists though are the people who use religious justifications for their bigotry. They believe that God, despite creating all peoples, actually favours their race above the other ones. They essentially think that God is racist, which is quite an insult. That he created all the different people, but they are the ones that he actually likes and supports. Or maybe they believe that different gods created the different races, each preferring their own kind, all in competition with each other. Yet the gods all managed to put aside their differences for long enough to agree to design a basic template so that each separate race of human beings would be sexually compatible with the others and genetically almost entirely identical.

Anyone who thinks that any all powerful all-seeing God would be petty and pathetic enough to prefer one race or nation above all the others is a fucking idiot, as ridiculous as these fools in their misspelled T-shirts. Really it should be enough to make them realise that gods were created by different races and nations as talismans rather than the other way round.

Don't use an imaginary man in the sky to justify your own stupidity. And if you think that the colour of someone's skin, or their hair or their eyes or where they live is an indication that they are inferior to you, then alas it is you who is the inferior one. And so you should dress up as a poor satire of yourself, wearing a T-shirt saying "I am mee".

But then after Hamilton’s incredible and mesmerizing victory I saw that my anger was not justified. When Hamilton's family came out to congratulate him, it turned out they had ridiculous grey hair, comedy thick glasses and some kind of skin pigment condition where their faces and nothing else were black as boot polish. They were also wearing home-made, mis-spelt T-shirts saying "Hamilton's Familly" and waving their arms around in a stupid fashion.

Those people in the crowd in Spain hadn't been racists at all, merely impressionists and they had got the Hamilton familly off to a tee. How could I have judged them and their country so unfairly. There’s a lesson for us all there. Somewhere.

Richard Herring began writing and performing comedy when he was 14. His career since Oxford has included a successful partnership with Stewart Lee and his hit one-man show Talking Cock
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Justin Trudeau points the way forward for European politics

Is the charismatic Canadian Prime Minister modelling the party of the future?

Six months after Canadian election day, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party continues to bask in the glow of victory. With 44 per cent of support in the polls, the Liberals are the most popular party amongst every single demographic – men and women, young and old, and people of all educational backgrounds. 

While most European mainstream parties only dream of such approval, this is actually a small dip for the Liberals. They were enjoying almost 50 per cent support in the polls up until budget day on 21 March. Even after announcing $29.4 billion in deficit spending, Canadians overall viewed the budget favourably – only 34 per cent said they would vote to defeat it.

Progressives around the world are suddenly intrigued by Canadian politics. Why is Justin Trudeau so successful?

Of course it helps that the new Prime Minister is young, handsome and loves pandas (who doesn’t?) But it’s also true that he was leader of the Liberals for a year and half before the election. He brought with him an initial surge in support for the party. But he also oversaw its steady decline in the lead up to last year’s election – leadership is important, but clearly it isn’t the only factor behind the Liberals’ success today.

Context matters

As disappointing as it is for Europeans seeking to unpack Canadian secrets, the truth is that a large part of the Liberals’ success was also down to the former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s extreme unpopularity by election time.

Throughout almost ten years in power, Harper shifted Canada markedly to the right. His Conservative government did not just alter policies; it started changing the rules of the democratic game. While centre-right governments in Europe may be implementing policies that progressives dislike, they are nonetheless operating within the constraints of democratic systems (for the most part; Hungary and Poland are exceptions).

Which is why the first weeks of the election campaign were dominated by an ‘Anybody But Harper’ sentiment, benefitting both the Liberals and the left-wing New Democratic Party (NDP). The NDP was even leading the polls for a while, inviting pundits to consider the possibility of a hung parliament.

But eight days before election day, the Liberals began to pull ahead.

The most important reason – and why they continue to be so popular today – is that they were able to own the mantle of ‘change’. They were the only party to promise running a (small) deficit and invest heavily in infrastructure. Notably absent was abstract discourse about tackling inequality. Trudeau’s plan was about fairness for the middle class, promoting social justice and economic growth.

Democratic reform was also a core feature of the Liberal campaign, which the party has maintained in government – Trudeau appointed a new Minister of Democratic Institutions and promised a change in the voting system before the next election.

The change has also been in style, however. Justin Trudeau is rebranding Canada as an open, progressive, plural society. Even though this was Canada’s reputation pre-Harper, it is not as simple as turning back the clock.

In a world increasingly taken by populist rhetoric on immigration – not just by politicians like Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen and other right-wingers, but also increasingly by mainstream politicians of right and left – Justin Trudeau has been unashamedly proclaiming the benefits of living in a diverse, plural society. He repeatedly calls himself a feminist, in the hope that one day “it is met with a shrug” rather than a social media explosion. Live-streamed Global Town Halls are one part of a renewed openness with the media. Progressive politicians in Europe would do well to take note.

Questioning the role of political parties today

Another interesting development is that the Liberal party is implicitly questioning the point of parties today. It recently abolished fee-paying, card-carrying party members. While this has been met with some criticism regarding the party’s structure and integrity, with commentators worried that “it’s the equivalent of turning your party into one giant Facebook page: Click ‘Like’ and you’re in the club,” it seems this is the point.

Colin Horgan, one of Trudeau’s former speechwriters, explains that Facebook is “literally a treasure trove for political parties”. All kinds of information becomes available – for free; supporters become easier to contact.

It was something the Liberals were already hinting at two years ago when they introduced a ‘supporters’ category to make the party appear more open. Liberal president Anna Gainey also used the word “movement” to describe what the Liberals hope to be.

And yes, they are trying to win over millennials. Which proved to be a good strategy, as a new study shows that Canadians aged 18-25 were a key reason why the Liberals won a majority. Young voter turnout was up by 12 per cent from the last election in 2011; among this age group, 45 per cent voted for the Liberals.

Some interesting questions for European progressives to consider. Of course, some of the newer political parties in Europe have already been experimenting with looser membership structures and less hierarchical ways of engaging, like Podemos’ ‘circles’ in Spain and the Five Star Movement’s ‘liquid democracy’ in Italy.

The British centre-left may be hesitant after its recent fiasco. Labour opened up its leadership primary to ‘supporters’ and ended up with a polarising leader who is extremely popular amongst members, but unpopular amongst the British public. But it would be wrong to assume that the process was to blame.

The better comparison is perhaps to Emmanuel Macron, France’s young economy minister who recently launched his own movement ‘En Marche !’ Moving beyond the traditional party structure, he is attempting to unite ‘right’ and ‘left’ by inspiring French people with an optimistic vision of the future. Time will tell whether this works to engage people in the longer term, or at least until next year’s presidential election.

In any case, European parties could start by asking themselves: What kind of political parties are they? What is the point of them?

Most importantly: What do they want people to think is the point of them?

Ultimately, the Canadian Liberals’ model of success rests on three main pillars:

  1. They unambiguously promote and defend a progressive, open, plural vision of society.
  2. They have a coherent economic plan focused on social justice and economic growth which, most importantly, they are trusted to deliver.
  3. They understand that society has changed – people are more interconnected than ever, relationships are less hierarchical and networks exist online – and they are adapting a once rigid party structure into a looser, open movement to reflect that.

*And as a bonus, a young, charismatic leader doesn’t hurt either.

Claudia Chwalisz is a Senior Policy Researcher at Policy Network, a Crook Public Service Fellow at the University of Sheffield and author of The Populist Signal: Why Politics and Democracy Need to Change