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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The Brexit Beartraps, #2: Could dropping out of the open skies agreement cancel your holiday?

Flying to Europe is about to get a lot more difficult.

So what is it this time, eh? Brexit is going to wipe out every banana planet on the entire planet? Brexit will get the Last Night of the Proms cancelled? Brexit will bring about World War Three?

To be honest, I think we’re pretty well covered already on that last score, but no, this week it’s nothing so terrifying. It’s just that Brexit might get your holiday cancelled.

What are you blithering about now?

Well, only if you want to holiday in Europe, I suppose. If you’re going to Blackpool you’ll be fine. Or Pakistan, according to some people...

You’re making this up.

I’m honestly not, though we can’t entirely rule out the possibility somebody is. Last month Michael O’Leary, the Ryanair boss who attracts headlines the way certain other things attract flies, warned that, “There is a real prospect... that there are going to be no flights between the UK and Europe for a period of weeks, months beyond March 2019... We will be cancelling people’s holidays for summer of 2019.”

He’s just trying to block Brexit, the bloody saboteur.

Well, yes, he’s been quite explicit about that, and says we should just ignore the referendum result. Honestly, he’s so Remainiac he makes me look like Dan Hannan.

But he’s not wrong that there are issues: please fasten your seatbelt, and brace yourself for some turbulence.

Not so long ago, aviation was a very national sort of a business: many of the big airports were owned by nation states, and the airline industry was dominated by the state-backed national flag carriers (British Airways, Air France and so on). Since governments set airline regulations too, that meant those airlines were given all sorts of competitive advantages in their own country, and pretty much everyone faced barriers to entry in others. 

The EU changed all that. Since 1994, the European Single Aviation Market (ESAM) has allowed free movement of people and cargo; established common rules over safety, security, the environment and so on; and ensured fair competition between European airlines. It also means that an AOC – an Air Operator Certificate, the bit of paper an airline needs to fly – from any European country would be enough to operate in all of them. 

Do we really need all these acronyms?

No, alas, we need more of them. There’s also ECAA, the European Common Aviation Area – that’s the area ESAM covers; basically, ESAM is the aviation bit of the single market, and ECAA the aviation bit of the European Economic Area, or EEA. Then there’s ESAA, the European Aviation Safety Agency, which regulates, well, you can probably guess what it regulates to be honest.

All this may sound a bit dry-

It is.

-it is a bit dry, yes. But it’s also the thing that made it much easier to travel around Europe. It made the European aviation industry much more competitive, which is where the whole cheap flights thing came from.

In a speech last December, Andrew Haines, the boss of Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority said that, since 2000, the number of destinations served from UK airports has doubled; since 1993, fares have dropped by a third. Which is brilliant.

Brexit, though, means we’re probably going to have to pull out of these arrangements.

Stop talking Britain down.

Don’t tell me, tell Brexit secretary David Davis. To monitor and enforce all these international agreements, you need an international court system. That’s the European Court of Justice, which ministers have repeatedly made clear that we’re leaving.

So: last March, when Davis was asked by a select committee whether the open skies system would persist, he replied: “One would presume that would not apply to us” – although he promised he’d fight for a successor, which is very reassuring. 

We can always holiday elsewhere. 

Perhaps you can – O’Leary also claimed (I’m still not making this up) that a senior Brexit minister had told him that lost European airline traffic could be made up for through a bilateral agreement with Pakistan. Which seems a bit optimistic to me, but what do I know.

Intercontinental flights are still likely to be more difficult, though. Since 2007, flights between Europe and the US have operated under a separate open skies agreement, and leaving the EU means we’re we’re about to fall out of that, too.  

Surely we’ll just revert to whatever rules there were before.

Apparently not. Airlines for America – a trade body for... well, you can probably guess that, too – has pointed out that, if we do, there are no historic rules to fall back on: there’s no aviation equivalent of the WTO.

The claim that flights are going to just stop is definitely a worst case scenario: in practice, we can probably negotiate a bunch of new agreements. But we’re already negotiating a lot of other things, and we’re on a deadline, so we’re tight for time.

In fact, we’re really tight for time. Airlines for America has also argued that – because so many tickets are sold a year or more in advance – airlines really need a new deal in place by March 2018, if they’re to have faith they can keep flying. So it’s asking for aviation to be prioritised in negotiations.

The only problem is, we can’t negotiate anything else until the EU decides we’ve made enough progress on the divorce bill and the rights of EU nationals. And the clock’s ticking.

This is just remoaning. Brexit will set us free.

A little bit, maybe. CAA’s Haines has also said he believes “talk of significant retrenchment is very much over-stated, and Brexit offers potential opportunities in other areas”. Falling out of Europe means falling out of European ownership rules, so itcould bring foreign capital into the UK aviation industry (assuming anyone still wants to invest, of course). It would also mean more flexibility on “slot rules”, by which airports have to hand out landing times, and which are I gather a source of some contention at the moment.

But Haines also pointed out that the UK has been one of the most influential contributors to European aviation regulations: leaving the European system will mean we lose that influence. And let’s not forget that it was European law that gave passengers the right to redress when things go wrong: if you’ve ever had a refund after long delays, you’ve got the EU to thank.

So: the planes may not stop flying. But the UK will have less influence over the future of aviation; passengers might have fewer consumer rights; and while it’s not clear that Brexit will mean vastly fewer flights, it’s hard to see how it will mean more, so between that and the slide in sterling, prices are likely to rise, too.

It’s not that Brexit is inevitably going to mean disaster. It’s just that it’ll take a lot of effort for very little obvious reward. Which is becoming something of a theme.

Still, we’ll be free of those bureaucrats at the ECJ, won’t be?

This’ll be a great comfort when we’re all holidaying in Grimsby.

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Brexit. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.