14 May 2014 10:30
Where is Benjamin Zephaniah when he is needed?
Benjamin Zephaniah is a burglar turned writer from Birmingham. He is very good at what he does; so good in fact that in 2003 he was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE).
Mr Zephaniah decided he did not want an OBE, and took to the columns of The Guardian and the airwaves of the BBC to rant against the British empire and the slave trade.
This made him a darling of the liberal left establishment, and for a while it was hard to turn on Radio 4 without hearing him smugly proclaiming his moral superiority.
So when the terror group Boko Haram abducted 276 Nigerian schoolgirls and announced plans to sell them into slavery, you would expect that someone with such strong views about slavery would be leading the fray to demand that the girls be rescued.
But from Benjamin, as from the rest of the politically correct liberal-lefty brigade, there comes the sound of silence.
Slavery still exists in Africa in the form of forced labour, unpaid domestic service or sex slaves.
In Nigeria and neighbouring countries, the going rate for abducted children, usually girls, is around $50. That is why Boko Haram’s threats are credible.
Boko Haram, a violent fascist movement which seeks to eradicate western modern culture in Nigeria and impose an Islamic version of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, is a player in the modern slave trade.
It has also killed about 10,000 people. It is reported that the group receives funding from sympathisers in the UK.
The received wisdom is that the slave trade was something that depraved European white people did to noble black African savages and therefore white westerners should live in a state of perpetual shame and apology.
But the history of slavery is more complicated, and no one comes out of the story with credit.
Slavery was practised in Africa before the European empires got in on the act.
It was black and Arab Africans who captured their fellow men and sold them to the traders. Africans continued to fuel the slave trade even while white American and British men died in their thousands to abolish the trade and to prevent the continued transport of slaves.
To deviate from that simplistic “black men good: white men evil” mantra is to invite wails of racism, but frankly I am past caring.
The left has thrown accusations of racism around so casually that it no longer has any meaning.
Recently those two iconic bête noire of the politically correct, Jeremy Clarkson and Nigel Farage, have been deluged with racist claims.
In the witch hunt that followed 68-year-old DJ David Lowe was sacked by the BBC for inadvertently playing an old version of the song ‘The Sun Has Got His Hat On’ which contained the word ‘nigger’.
This is the same word that Clarkson almost said as part of an old children’s rhyme.
Such small-minded and petty assaults are a far cry from the days of the truly racist National Front and the visionary and powerful counter attack mounted by ‘Rock Against Racism’.
Strangely it seems that BBC DJ’s can still play Elvis Costello referring to a British soldier as a ‘white nigger’. Perhaps Costello’s participation in anti-Israeli propaganda earns him a special dispensation. And of course the word is peppered across rap music, which seems not to be an issue. Also it is OK to say ‘nigger’ in Quentin Tarantino films, but is very wrong in The Dambusters.
Jeremy Clarkson, David Lowe and Nigel Farage are not racists, at least not in the sense that they would deliberately discriminate against or cause harm to anyone from a different ethnic background.
They were however brought up when there were golliwogs on jam jars and before the English lexicon began to be separated into approved and unapproved words.
What we are seeing of late is not really about racism, real or imagined.
It is the intolerance of the liberal left who refuse to co-exist with anyone who does not subscribe to their world view, and an attempt to censor the past and create thought crimes.
In the longer term in overplaying the racist card the left has risked stimulating a backlash which could reverse the work of so many people in eradicating real racism in the UK.
In the meantime there are 276 frightened girls in Nigeria, suffering at the hands of Islamic terrorists and in fear of enslavement, abuse or death, and there are many others in modern day slavery in Africa.
Their plight has not become an international scandal, or a cause aggressively pursued by the campaigning human rights industry,because it does not suit the politically correct narrative that only white men can be bad.
That is a truly dreadful form of racism.