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Sorry Seems To Be The Correct Answer

February 6, 2009

Tonight, I am wondering whether the BBC gives more importance to Britain’s Prime Ministers, or to tennis players. Why, you might well ask, and what on Earth does that question have to do with disability?

Well, I shouldn’t need to tell any of you that Carol Thatcher, who just happens to be the daughter of the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, was sacked from her job on the BBC’s One Show earlier this week for calling the black,  French tennis player Gael Monfils a ‘golliwog.’ She hasn’t apologised yet for this racism, but she has said that the remark was made in jest. It was also made off air, in a private conversation between Thatcher, the show’s presenters and some of the show’s guests.  Thatcher’s sacking was no big deal to me, until now.

This morning, I read that Jeremy Clarkson, presenter of the BBC’s Top Gear programme, has apologised for calling the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, a ‘one-eyed Scottish idiot.’  This completely unnecessary reference to the Prime Minister’s loss of sight in one eye after an accident as a teenager was made to journalists in Sydney, Australia, on record, while Clarkson was speaking about the economic crisis. Clarkson has, rightly, been heavily criticised for this remark by MPs, as well as by charities for blind people. However:

The BBC said it noted Clarkson’s apology for the comments and would be taking no further action.

So, now I am left wondering, why did the BBC sack Carol Thatcher for racism to a tennis player, when they chose to take no action at all against Jeremy Clarkson for making offensive remarks about the British Prime Minister’s DisAbility? Is it simply because Clarkson, unlike Thatcher, apologised for his comments? Does his apology suddenly make his unforgivable and extremely hurtful comments forgivable, less hurtful, or both? Does the BBC really care more for the feelings of a tennis player than it does for the feelings of our Prime Minister? Surely not.

Personally, I think it goes far deeper than that. You see, racism is a ‘normal’ form of offence. It is recognised. Everyone knows what it is called. Everyone also knows, and understands, that it is wrong, and most people know and understand how painful it is.

Disablism, however, is still so unrecognised that I wouldn’t be surprised, or blame you, if you have never heard the word in your life! I have only just remembered it myself. Most members of the mainstream don’t realise that disabled people are just as hurt and offended by cruel comments about their disabilities as any ethnic minority person is by a racist comment. They don’t realise that we have feelings too.

So the BBC  thinks it is perfectly all right to be outraged about a racist comment, made off the official record, and sack Ms Thatcher, because they recognise racism for what it is. Something unnecessary, hurtful and unforgivable. And I do think that they were perfectly right to sack Ms Thatcher, whether she was joking off air or not. 

But they also seem to think it is perfectly all right to admit, with hardly any fuss, that they are going to let Clarkson keep his job, even after he has made a disablist comment, on the official record, to journalists. Because they don’t recognise disablism for what it is. Something just as bad, just as unnecesary, just as unforgivable and most of all, just as hurtful, as racism. Something that deserves a punishment that is completely equal to that given to any racist person.

So personally, I think that if Carol Thatcher got the sack from the BBC, then so should Jeremy Clarkson. Being physically DisAbled myself, I  am sure that Gordon Brown agrees with me- not just as the Prime Minister of Britain, but also as a DisAbled person. I wonder if he will use his powers as Prime Minister to make the BBC sack Jeremy Clarkson? I know that I would.

 

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