Thought For The Day #2916 June 2014
Broadcast 16th of June 2014 on BBC Radio Bristol
Audio available at http://www.mytalky.com/1oN
Our PM’s criticism this weekend, of what he described as ‘bashfulness’ about being British, has been a helpful reflection for me. His concern comes in the wake of findings published in the Ofsted report about religious fundamentalism in Birmingham schools. And so he’s urging a ‘muscular’ promotion of the UK’s values and institutions.
My immediate reaction was dismissive, that the Tory leader was playing the Nationalistic Card. Something along the lines of, “we’re British and don’t want too many foreigners in our country”. But then I suddenly remembered a provocative section from a standup routine by the American comedian Louis CK. In no uncertain terms, he makes it clear that he’s outraged by any white man’s inability to acknowledge the privilege of being a white man.
I think what allowed him to get away with it was the obvious lack of aggressive or zealous nationalism. Instead, what he was saying was that being bashful about acknowledging the power tied up in your identity, isn’t always a sign of humility. It can actually be a clever way of stopping yourself walking in the shoes of those that are different from you.
I am a white British man myself. I have never had to struggle with my gender nor the colour of my skin. This just seems normal to me, so much so that it takes me a moment to recall that my experience might not be the same as everyone elses.
It’s not that David Cameron and Louis CK make me proud to be a white British man, instead they’re reminding me that I am incredibly lucky. And that trivialising race and gender for me, trivialises it for everyone.