Tuesday, 27 March 2007

A public letter to Rageh Omaar

Dear Mr. Omaar,

I watched your movie about children labour, exploitation and slavery yesterday evening.
You said something at the beginning of your movie that I am struggling to understand.
You said something like: "In great britain we abolished slavery 200 years ago".
This statement is such a nonsense that I have felt compelled to write you publicly.
You are such a clever and informed person that I don't doubt you understand the more or less subtle implications of such a statement.
But here I need to go through the obvious, because if you understand the implication why couldn't you say something which would have been acceptable, like: "200 years ago you british abolished slavery".
Let me explain.
You are a Somali born person, you have the typical dark skin of so called "black" or african, or whatever people (although it's more a dark brown to me) and 200 years ago you didn't even exist.
200 years ago a bunch of people who happened to be british, "white" (actually quite pink, probably more red in the face if they indulge in the historical weakness that this country has for alcohol) "abolished" slavery. See, I need a lot of double quotes, you know what I mean, it's all relative, words cannot convey the historical complexity of what happened. So the first paradox of you sentence is historical. You and I and all people living nowadays were not born 200 years ago; we are so incredibly different from those people of 200 years ago; at least some of us.
The second paradox is the "we". You weren't even born in this country, 200 years ago there weren't any african to vote to abolish slavery, so how can you say WE? How can you even feel associated to the people who enslaved your ancestors? Just because the British govn't has been so good to grant you a BRITISH passport?
No, I don't understant. Your statement is confusing for me, but it could have a bad influence on young people who look up at you as an example.
A "black" is still a "black"; a paki is a paki, a frog is a frog; I am sicilian, and to most of the rest of italy I am a "terrone", a derogatory word for southern; for other I am a "marocchino", just because I was born in Sicily.
I think you owe yourself and your people and to all the people to whom you might be a role model, more honesty, you are not a organic part of this society, and you know it, so why pretend racism doesn't exist, why play it down?

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