Since the Brexit vote a few weeks ago, it seems there has been something tragic and worrying in the news every day. The appalling bombings in Baghdad by ISIS, the escalating tragedy of police shootings in the US, and the racism on our home turf. And of course, the terrorist attack on Nice just last night. I’ve sat down to write about these things a few times, but there is so much bloodshed and tragedy that I didn’t know where to begin.
I was hoping that the appointment of Theresa May might bring about some common sense in our tumultuous political system. I’m not a fan of Mrs May, but she seemed to be the best of a bad bunch. However, her appointment of Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary reveals her dubious judgement. After all, this is the man who insulted President Obama, by saying that his “part-Kenyan” heritage would engender an “ancestral dislike of the British empire”. He’s described Africans as being “flag-waving piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles” and referred to Papua New Guinea as the home of “orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing.” These are only a few of his idiotic bloopers. How can a man with all the sensitivity of a pumpkin, possibly pick his way through the Syrian Crisis? Or represent us in the EU, when relations with our European neighbours are already fraught? The state of our country is embarrassing enough, but sending the chief clown out onto the global platform to represent us is farcical.
— Neil Henderson (@hendopolis) July 13, 2016
In worrying times, it’s important to remember the power of words. Careless racial or sexual pejoratives can be damaging in any situation, but right now we should hyper aware of the effect of our words. Boris Johnson’s casual use of racial stereotypes is irresponsible. What we need right now is a little political correctness. Being PC has got a bad rap over the years, with headlines screaming ‘Poltical Correctness gone mad!’. But it’s important to remember that PC is a result of enlightenment; it’s right that abhorrent words and attitudes that were once considered acceptable, have fallen out of use and are now taboo.
We are all entitled to free speech and intellectual freedom and in the West, we have access to social media which gives everyone a voice. But in many parts of the world, this entitlement is denied. It’s vital to respect the power of words and be careful not to add to the swirling racial tension that is causing so much grief, death and discord in our society.