Time for us all to stand up and be counted

Facebook has a habit of throwing up cringy credos of worthiness that are so sugar laden, just by reading them a Type 2 diabetic like myself could be risking a toe.

But I saw one during the week that connected with me because it put in very straightforward terms how I’ve always unconsciously conducted myself. It’s how I was brought up and I don’t usually give it much thought.

The post read: “I don’t care if you’re black, white, straight, bisexual, gay, lesbian, short, tall, fat, skinny, rich or poor. If you’re nice to me I’ll be nice to you. Simple as that.”

There are plenty of things I can choose to dislike someone for, but it will never be any of the above.

That still leaves a lot of stuff to choose from.

The catalyst for such a post was obviously the worldwide outrage over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis after a cop knelt on his neck despite the black man’s pleas that he couldn’t breathe.

I will come back to the wave of protest, but first I want to address what seems to be another consequence of this which has really saddened me.

On Friday morning I watched a video message posted by Leigh Francis. The mere fact that he was speaking as himself rather than his alter ego Keith Lemon set the alarm bells ringing, but I wasn’t prepared for what followed.

In some distress he apologised for his portrayals of Craig David and Michael Jackson, two of his most popular characters from his breakthrough groundbreaking 2002 comedy show Bo Selecta.

Somehow someone has managed to convince him that rather than being outrageously funny for 18 years he was actually being outrageously hurtful and offensive and it seems to have made him question the very thing that helped establish him as one of the funniest performers on television.

Now while I can remember Craig David getting soundly cheesed off with people shouting “Can I get a reewiind” at him in the street I don’t think he, or Mel B, whose portrayal was particularly extreme, ever saying they felt it was in any way racist.

As a white bloke I can’t begin to identify with the prejudice people from back and ethnic minorities have had to endure, but if we can’t laugh at each other without malice – and surely no one could accuse Leigh Francis of being malicious – then something really is out of whack.

* For every noble gesture of US police chiefs joining protest marches or riot squads taking the knee in support of the people whose heads they have been sent out to crack, there’s a Buffalo, where an entire squad has quit in support of an officer suspended without pay for pushing over and seriously injuring a 75 year-old peaceful activist; a Washington where police vehicles were driven directly into protesters so that the streets could be cleared to provide the president with a photo op outside a church and a New York City where a woman was deliberately trampled by a police horse.

Regardless of the worldwide outrage caused by the death of George Floyd there are police officers in America who are carrying on regardless as we all watch while Trump incites a race war with his words.

Showing solidarity is no longer enough. Every good US cop prepared to take the knee or walk the walk and every chief or official has a responsibility right now to call out the colleagues they know to be working to their own racist agenda.

They are the ones best equipped to rid forces of these awful people – the types who kneel on a man’s neck for eight minutes knowing they are being filmed and not caring. The types who cuff a black woman across a car bonnet, ignoring the fact that her breasts are being exposed before pushing her face into a concrete pavement leaving her bloodied while her family and neighbours look on helplessly. The types who cuff a black man in a shopping precinct, unaware that he is an off duty FBI agent.

The time for decent, honest cops to act is now and every African American approached by a police officer should have their finger ready on the video button of their smartphones

One of the most chilling things I have seen this week is thousands of people all chanting “I can’t breathe.” I won’t lie, it brought me to tears.

And let’s not kid ourselves it’s just America,. We just don’t shoot first and ask questions later here.

Can I get a reeewiind!

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Edward Case

Columnist