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
Photo: Getty
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The Prevent strategy needs a rethink, not a rebrand

A bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy.

Yesterday the Home Affairs Select Committee published its report on radicalization in the UK. While the focus of the coverage has been on its claim that social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are “consciously failing” to combat the promotion of terrorism and extremism, it also reported on Prevent. The report rightly engages with criticism of Prevent, acknowledging how it has affected the Muslim community and calling for it to become more transparent:

“The concerns about Prevent amongst the communities most affected by it must be addressed. Otherwise it will continue to be viewed with suspicion by many, and by some as “toxic”… The government must be more transparent about what it is doing on the Prevent strategy, including by publicising its engagement activities, and providing updates on outcomes, through an easily accessible online portal.”

While this acknowledgement is good news, it is hard to see how real change will occur. As I have written previously, as Prevent has become more entrenched in British society, it has also become more secretive. For example, in August 2013, I lodged FOI requests to designated Prevent priority areas, asking for the most up-to-date Prevent funding information, including what projects received funding and details of any project engaging specifically with far-right extremism. I lodged almost identical requests between 2008 and 2009, all of which were successful. All but one of the 2013 requests were denied.

This denial is significant. Before the 2011 review, the Prevent strategy distributed money to help local authorities fight violent extremism and in doing so identified priority areas based solely on demographics. Any local authority with a Muslim population of at least five per cent was automatically given Prevent funding. The 2011 review pledged to end this. It further promised to expand Prevent to include far-right extremism and stop its use in community cohesion projects. Through these FOI requests I was trying to find out whether or not the 2011 pledges had been met. But with the blanket denial of information, I was left in the dark.

It is telling that the report’s concerns with Prevent are not new and have in fact been highlighted in several reports by the same Home Affairs Select Committee, as well as numerous reports by NGOs. But nothing has changed. In fact, the only change proposed by the report is to give Prevent a new name: Engage. But the problem was never the name. Prevent relies on the premise that terrorism and extremism are inherently connected with Islam, and until this is changed, it will continue to be at best counter-productive, and at worst, deeply discriminatory.

In his evidence to the committee, David Anderson, the independent ombudsman of terrorism legislation, has called for an independent review of the Prevent strategy. This would be a start. However, more is required. What is needed is a radical new approach to counter-terrorism and counter-extremism, one that targets all forms of extremism and that does not stigmatise or stereotype those affected.

Such an approach has been pioneered in the Danish town of Aarhus. Faced with increased numbers of youngsters leaving Aarhus for Syria, police officers made it clear that those who had travelled to Syria were welcome to come home, where they would receive help with going back to school, finding a place to live and whatever else was necessary for them to find their way back to Danish society.  Known as the ‘Aarhus model’, this approach focuses on inclusion, mentorship and non-criminalisation. It is the opposite of Prevent, which has from its very start framed British Muslims as a particularly deviant suspect community.

We need to change the narrative of counter-terrorism in the UK, but a narrative is not changed by a new title. Just as a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, a bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy. While the Home Affairs Select Committee concern about Prevent is welcomed, real action is needed. This will involve actually engaging with the Muslim community, listening to their concerns and not dismissing them as misunderstandings. It will require serious investigation of the damages caused by new Prevent statutory duty, something which the report does acknowledge as a concern.  Finally, real action on Prevent in particular, but extremism in general, will require developing a wide-ranging counter-extremism strategy that directly engages with far-right extremism. This has been notably absent from today’s report, even though far-right extremism is on the rise. After all, far-right extremists make up half of all counter-radicalization referrals in Yorkshire, and 30 per cent of the caseload in the east Midlands.

It will also require changing the way we think about those who are radicalized. The Aarhus model proves that such a change is possible. Radicalization is indeed a real problem, one imagines it will be even more so considering the country’s flagship counter-radicalization strategy remains problematic and ineffective. In the end, Prevent may be renamed a thousand times, but unless real effort is put in actually changing the strategy, it will remain toxic. 

Dr Maria Norris works at London School of Economics and Political Science. She tweets as @MariaWNorris.