Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Brief History of White

I think the BBC may finally have well and truly lost the plot. The recent White Season seems to be one of the most confused pieces of programming scheduling I have seen in a while.

My review of the first programme was here and mainly positive. While I still think this, Beaman pointed out it was rather biased. Perhaps I had prematurely given the BBC the benefit of the doubt; after all, there was a whole week of shows to prove not all white working class people pledge allegiance to the Swastika, surely?

Next came a programme on Enoch Powell's speech in Birmingham which ends with the words "Like the Roman, I see the River Tiber foaming with much blood" (someone should come up with a catchy title which encapsulates the fear contained of that speech). My instinct was that although the programme tried to exhibit a range of views to the speech, it ended up with a rather orthodox reaction to it (which I happen to agree with). A well argued, revisionist history that the programme could have contained is available here.

White Girl's inclusion in the season was simply bizarre. The subtext seemed to be that white working class people can save themselves by converting to Islam. While their are individuals where this may well have been the case (and this drama was apparently based on a true story), it could be construed as being highly offensive and denigrating to white working class culture by including this in the season.

The Poles are Coming was an interesting look at the Polish invasion since the EU expanded, but left white working class people looking like work-shy dole cheats. There was no balancing view.

The Primary was a fantastic look at a multicultural inner city school in Birmingham, and appeared to show working class white people who (shock, horror!) did not mind people of other races. For a programme included in white season however, it spent very little time with the minority white community in the area and rather a lot of time looking at the others.

All White in Barking was yet another show which concentrated on white working class flirtation with the BNP. However, it did acknowledge insularity in other cultures. Holocaust survivor Monty's heart-rending story should have a programme all to itself.

Now what was the point of this season? The infamous advert advertising it seemed to refer to the white working class being drowned out by other cultures. If this season was supposed to be about the white working class in relation to other cultures, it was simply too one-sided. Where were the (I would say majority) white working class people who are appalled by the BNP and have friends and colleagues from other races and cultures? Or those who oppose the level of immigration in this country but oppose the BNP's exploitation of it? Or those whose children have married people from other cultures and get along well their in-laws? Or those who have extended their hand in friendship even when they have it thrown back in their face?

And excuse me if I am wrong, but it is only the BNP who truly believes that the only issues the white working class face are based on their relationship with people of other cultures. What about white working class people who live on sink estates, living in fear of "their own kind" as some in this season might put it? Or those who are trying to get their children into the best schools despite the best efforts of the choice agenda of the middle class? Where are the working class people who have values of hard-work, self-reliance and decency who abhor the benefits culture? Or those who believe or no longer believe, as the case may be, in the institution of the trade union?

Is the white working class becoming invisible? If this is the kind of programming being used to report about them, then the answer appears to be yes. However, the problem does not lie with other cultures coming to this country; the problem is the bog-standard programming produced by the state broadcaster, which once-upon-a-time used to be the envy of the world.

Instead of advertising this series by writing all over a white person's face in foreign languages, perhaps it would have been more aptly demonstrated by hitting him around the head with an overpriced TV licence instead.


Beaman said...

I quite enjoyed 'All White in Barking'. Again, as you said, it made the white people out to be racists but it had a certain magic in its attempts to get people together. Especially the elderly white couple and the black family.

How he ate the cow's foot, I'll never know.

Monty and his (girlfriend?) were wonderful. I agree, they need a programme to themselves. Both lovely people.

Louis said...

I enjoyed All White in Barking as well. In fact, all the programmes individually were pretty good, except for White Girl (regardless of the story I am generally not a fan of feature length dramas anyway). As a season about the white working classes however, it was flawed.

Anonymous said...

Why dont you just accept the fact that lots of WWC people are just like those shown the series. Their racist views are not isolated views. Even middle class whites hate immigrants, but they arent as vocal as the WWC. The WWC who dont have a problem with immigration or integration are not really the subject of this series, its the WWC that doesnt want integration who are subject of this series. The bottom line is ...middle class racist whites vote Tory, working class racist whites vote BNP, and business/bourgeois racist whites vote UKIP. Thats how it is.

But also I think white working class culture is pretty crude anyway, football, drugs, alcohol, street slang, under aged sex, asbos, crime, racism, skiving off school, no respect for teachers, vandalism, graffitti etc. haha, its charicature yes but still true. And most of that is represented in other prorgrammes/documentaries on Tv, so theres no need for a special series on chavs, although I think Sky One had a series on it...BNP wives etc.

Louis said...

You seem to have a different definition of WWC to me. You describe what I would call the emerging underclass who are a subset of the working class. The working class that I refer to are defined as in Watching the English by Kate Fox; for example, people who sit on a sofa in a living room and rarely use a napkin, rather than in a lounge on a settee using serviettes. These are people I grew up with and still have many friends among, and are not anything like the working class portrayed in this season. I accept however that recent immigration levels have changed attitudes across all the classes. Your class racist/ party ready reckoner is something I have often thought myself.