Racism in the news has been an issue for years and years but many – including the networks themselves – choose to ignore it. However, issues such as racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia. Etc. should not be normalised.
The racist is a mythical creature. Ever elusive. Nobody admits if they are one. Doesn’t seem to have a face. But my God, do we hear its voice. Especially in the realm of social media.
When press officers at Sainsbury’s were pierced by the double-edged sword of trending Twitter this week, for both good and bad reasons, it rang out once more. The issue? The supermarket giant’s new Christmas advert features a family… that just so happens to be black.
I say that plainly because that’s exactly how it should have been perceived. However, the opposite was the case. As comedian Funmbi Omotayo put it, soon after the advert began to air nationwide, “all hell broke loose”.
Examples of responses include: “You may as well rename yourself Blackbury’s”, “Where are the British people?”, “You’ve managed to completely alienate the few remaining White customers you still had.”
Apparently, for some, a black family is not worthy of a Christmas advert. So, it begs the question, what exactly is a black family worthy of?
I see no outrage when black people are overwhelmingly overrepresented in the UK justice system. Are they only deemed worthy of being on Crimewatch? When black mothers were revealed to be statistically more likely to die in the UK from childbirth than any other group, where was the outrage then?
Perhaps they should only be seen scoring goals in international football matches, winning gold medals at the Olympics or being token rappers at posh dos. These examples, perhaps, are more palatable for people who can barely tolerate their presence in the UK. Black people, permitted to exist as long as they are considered to be performing familiar stereotypes: the inner-city criminal, the happy-go-lucky entertainer or generally, the sole black person in the office who should be a forgettable face that might be seen around, preferably not heard, and certainly has no power. It’s far too much for black people to be included in picture-perfect, filmic Christmas adverts as ordinary British families.
The supermarket’s decision to feature a family who just so happen to be black embraces the plurality of 21st-century Britishness. Being both black and British hasn’t suddenly become incompatible. Rather, the discomfort many feel at being confronted with that reality is part of an issue that has been bubbling under the surface for decades: the myth that no racism exists in the UK.