Taking offence on the off chance you might be offended
I’ve had a long standing belief that offence is an over-used term. I don’t get offended often, I am not offended by things people may expect me to be offended about, and I have a really big problem with people who take offence on my behalf, especially when I haven’t.
Take for example the Dizzy Rascal interview on Newsnight after Obama’s election which I blogged about. I was hugely offended by what I saw as a clear ‘putting in your place’ activity. Many people I spoke to didn’t get what I was on about.
I once had an office debate at my old job about whether or not Ali G is offensive, I’m on the fence, as far as I’m concerned he is nothing like the black people I know and does more damage to perception of the white youth communities living on the outskirts of London who don’t really have any black friends.
The real issue is where their idea of what it means to be black comes from. My colleague at the time felt that Ali G himself was offensive to black people. My colleague was white. I kinda had to tell him where to go, if you don’t understand why something is offensive, you can’t be offended on someone else’s behalf.
I should point out the same colleague once tried to tell me that black people don’t tan so I don’t think he is representative of a sensible mind!
Last week on The Apprentice one of the contestants (white lady) had a huge go at her team because she thought they were saying another contestant couldn’t be on an ad campaign because he was of Asian heriatge and they already had a black girl in the campaign. Said Asian guy was sat next to her and silent. One of the people she was having a go at was black (she actually said “I’m black and I’m not offended”). To be fair, they phrased it all wrong, when I heard “we don’t want it to be an ethnic minority thing” I shivered. But what they were actually saying is that they wanted someone better looking but they didn’t want to offend the guy they were talking about. Can you see how this all gets a bit messy?
Then we have the ABC special that was sent around the web about the ‘Shopping-While-Black’ phenomenon. A hugely over the top attempt (and slightly mis-representative) to give white America an understanding of what black folks experience in certain shops. One of the white ladies who saw the black shopper being treated badly, started crying. I would really like someone to slap her. It’s not that she shouldn’t be offended that she was being forced to witness racist behaviour, its not even that she shouldn’t be offended that the shop assistant tried to bring her in on it…..but I beg crying? The actual victim had to comfort her for goodness sake!
And don’t even get me started on the madness of *political correctness* (prize for anyone who actually gives me a sensible definition on this) which has seens schools in the UK not putting on nativity plays or even using the word Christmas. Work places banned from saying Merry Xmas and sending out Season’s Greetings cards instead. Note that no-one is banning the saying of Happy Diwali, Eid Mubarak or even the handing out of Easter eggs (I’m pretty sure banning Easter eggs is on the cards; it might offend fat people who shouldn’t eat chocolate). Why are they all so scared of offending people who don’t believe in what you believe?!!
You may not agree with my examples but we are all a bit too sensitive to the issue of offense across any subject. My position on this is that everyone needs to calm down. Like seriously calm down. It is ok for me to find something offensive and for you not to. We do not need to legislate for it. If you are claiming offense on behalf of a third party, be clear on what is and is not offensive before you go opening your mouth. Make sure your voice is not louder than the so called offended party, especially when they can speak for themselves, and please, I beg of you, THINK FOR YOURSELF!
And so, to demonstrate my point, I will share two videos that have assisted me with my sore throat and flu-ness this morning by making me laugh till I cry.
Video 1 is the official video for the latest UK funky house (love me some funky) craze called Tribal Skank. I’ve loved the song for months and just like the sucker that I am, have also learned the dance. I was debating if I found the video offensive for the following reasons: so called african tribe stereotype of grass skirts dancing around a fire, the predictable white boy reaction, the predictable white boy’s respectable family reaction etc etc etc. I don’t know why I felt there was a debate. The video is comedy, pure and simple. Just catch jokes and have a bubble.
Video 2 has to be the worst thing I’ve seen in a while. Treasure in you by Namata. Its offensive to music, it’s offensive to good music, it’s an assault on my ears, it’s so stereotyped against black men (black guys and white girls only video) it’s undisputable, the dance moves are offensive to the eye and finally, it’s a clear example of when money passes sense. Production quality is the only thing this has going for it. I apologise in advance for all manner of offence to be caused by watching this video. Please don’t cry (unless in laughter), don’t sue me and for goodness sake try not to get any post-traumatic stress!