After the fall, the prostration before his peers, the admission of guilt, the expression of sincere regret, or, in the case of David Starkey, not so much. The appallingly racist historian and (possibly former) broadcaster has taken stock following the response to his claim “Slavery was not genocide, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many damn blacks in Africa or in Britain would there? You know, an awful lot of them survived” last week.has reported. “Historian David Starkey has said using comments denounced as racist during a discussion about slavery were ‘a bad mistake’ for which he is ‘very sorry’ … He apologised ‘unreservedly’ for the offence his ‘deplorably inflammatory’ words had caused, saying he had spoken ‘with awful clumsiness’”. More like Awfully Premeditated Racist Intent.
The Beeb is also too kind to the person who facilitated Starkey’s bigotry. “Starkey made the offensive remarks in an episode of Darren Grimes's Reasoned, entitled ‘Dr David Starkey: Black Lives Matter Aims To Delegitimate British History’ … Grimes, a conservative commentator, also distanced himself from his guest's remarks, saying he rejected what Starkey said on his YouTube show ‘in the strongest possible terms’”. Yeah, right.
Grimes only distanced himself from Starkey’s racist outburst when he saw the blowback coming his way. Worse, Starkey’s contrition comes with a worrying large asterisk, as a report by the Guardian shows, quoting The Great Man as claiming “I have also paid a heavy price for one offensive word, with the loss of every distinction and honour acquired in a long career”. Except it wasn’t just “one offensive word”. And there is more.
That, and his latest swerve across the racism line, are like an echo of the language used by Apartheid-era white South Africans. Starkey’s excuse making also includes “It was intended to emphasise, in hindsight with awful clumsiness, the numbers who survived the horrors of the slave trade. Instead, it came across as a term of racial abuse”. That’s because it WAS a term of racial abuse. But he does have a final get-out clause.
As the Guardian report noted, “As well as lamenting the impact on his career, Starkey also claimed that if free speech ‘is suppressed on questions of race, resentments will fester rather than disappear. My principal regret is that my blundering use of language and the penalty it has incurred will further restrict the opportunities for proper debate.’”
FREEZE PEACH! FREEZE PEACH! But no, it’s not about freedom of speech. He had freedom to speak those words; his critics had the freedom to call him out for racism. This is the response of a coward, someone unable to admit to his own grave mistakes.
But good of David Starkey to let us know that he’s sort of sorry, and that in any case, the free speech lobby will be along to clean up after him. No surprise there, then.