Part of the Royal Family has been the target of the press’ carefully pitched low-level nudge-and-wink racism from the word go: as soon as Prince Harry began dating (now) former actor Meghan Markle, those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet did not take long to kind out that her mum was an African-American. Nor did the far-right. So one can be certain that those working in the media will know this.
That shirt's well offensive, too
And that means when veteran broadcaster Danny Baker took to Twitter last night, the idea he didn’t know was not going to wash. Nevertheless, as the BBC has reported, “The now deleted tweet, which has been circulated on social media, showed an image of a couple holding hands with a chimpanzee dressed in clothes with the caption: ‘Royal Baby leaves hospital’”. The Beeb took immediate action, and sacked Baker on the spot.
He’s a football fan. He knows what equating chimps to black and mixed race people means - that’s how racist fans racially abuse players. It should have been stamped out years ago, but as Manchester City striker Raheem Sterling - another target for low-level and persistent press bigotry - showed recently, it still happens. Even so, Baker decided to Jokesplain his way out of it. Except it didn’t work.
“Here we go. Opened door, grinning Mail hack. ‘Do you think black people look like monkeys?’ Any other time you'd knock someone right on their arse for saying that”. The Mail may be hypocrites. But Baker was still bang to rights. “Now Sky at the door. Would have used same stupid pic for any other Royal birth or Boris Johnson kid or even one of my own. It's a funny image. (Though not of course in that context.)” Keep digging.
“The call to fire me from @bbc5live was a masterclass of pompous faux-gravity. Took a tone that said I actually meant that ridiculous tweet and the BBC must uphold blah blah blah. Literally threw me under the bus. Could hear the suits knees knocking … Now it's started raining. Perfect”. The self-awareness had an early flight to catch?
How did those who have been on the receiving end of racial abuse view Baker’s less than total apology? Charlene White, who was given a load of it in 2013 when she was discovered not to be wearing a poppy during October, was unimpressed. “Meghan has been subject to horrific/veiled racist abuse & prejudice online and in print since the start of their relationship. Of which we are ALL aware”. And her conclusion?
“To post a pic picturing a 3-day old baby of mixed heritage as a monkey, then claim it was a joke? That’s old-school prejudice and racism at its peak. And for a trusted broadcaster working at a public service broadcaster to feed that prejudice? It’s unacceptable”.
Natalie Rowe caught Baker’s appearance on James O’Brien’s LBC show. She was also unimpressed. “#DannyBaker should stop moaning that he was thrown under the Bus by the BBC and concentrate more on taking full responsibility for his Tweet, he didn’t come across too well whilst talking to you just now, he showed little remorse and more justification”. And Priyamvada Gopal was not buying the “intent” argument.
“How many times do we have to say 'intent' is neither here nor there?” And the idea that someone has to be offended? “But it's not about offence either. You do not compare people with black heritage to chimpanzees because it is self-evidently part of race thinking and eugenics. So even if no one takes offence, it is wrong”. Full stop, end of story.
The time of Danny Baker at the BBC was for a time, but not for all time.
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