Ahmed Sule : The prevalence of racism


Very often, racially inflammatory comments are made in the British press against the Black community. Despite the outrage that often occurs after these comments are made, these racially offensive comments still persist. The prevalence of these attacks in the British media are starkly illustrated in two famous race rows; David Starkey's comment on 'the Whites are becoming Blacks' and Shilpa Shetty's race row in Celebrity Big Brother.

The fallout from these cases gives an insight in understanding the role politicians, the media, the community and economic factors play in either reinforcing or preventing the prevalence of these racially offensive comments.

Having analysed the possible reasons for these racist comments, I have outlined some of the causes, as well as highlighting some successful challenges.

The COMMUNITY: Apathy of the Black community towards race issues?

It could be said that members of the Black British community are indifferent when it comes to racial issues, especially when the Black community is portrayed in a negative light. After David Starkey made his comments on television, the BBC received nearly 900 complaints from viewers, while Ofcom received just over 100 complaints. However, during the Shilpa Shetty case, Ofcom received around 45,000 complaints, which illustrates that when the BME community becomes more vocal on racial injustice, then the media will begin to become more sensitive to BME dignity.

POLITICS: The role of the Black political class

Despite the prevalence of a number of Black politicians in the UK, they are sometimes silent on the issue of race. When David Starkey made his remark, there was hardly any response from the Black political class. In contrast, during the Shilpa Shetty race row, Labour MP, Keith Vaz played a key role in escalating the issue to the highest level. He tabled a motion in the House of Commons calling for immediate action on the race issue. He also asked Channel 4's CEO to apologise to Shetty and also called for his resignation. Vaz openly challenged Tony Blair in Parliament, about the role which broadcasters should take, not to transmit such racist material.

Lack of political will by British politicians

Like their Black counterparts, most of the British political class in general is often reluctant to speak up on race issues. During the David Starkey race row, only Ed Milliband, the Labour leader condemned Starkey's comment. Despite Milliband's call on all politicians from all political parties to condemn what he called racist comments, his call went unheeded. With the exception of Femi Solola, an independent London Mayoral candidate, none of the British politicians have responded to Baroness Flather's racists comment about Nigerian men and the silence continues in relation to the ongoing killing of Black people in Libya.

The reason for the stern response from the political class in the Shilpa Shetty case was due to economic reasons. India is one of the emerging global economic powers and is a major UK trading partner and export destination for British exports.

ECONOMICS: Black spending power

Spending power is very important to companies who are always seeking means to tap into the spending power of potential consumers. Advertisers will pay close attention when the activities of the media negatively impact its core or potential customers.

None of the advertisers put any pressure on the media houses to address the inflammatory racial comments melted on the Black community by David Starkey. On the contrary, during the Shilpa Shetty race row, Carphone Warehouse withdrew its yearly £3million sponsorship of the series and there were threats from other advertisers to pull out.


Tackling the projection of racist comments in the media will go a long way in reducing racism. This is because, if a high profile individual can go on TV or any other form of media and make racially offensive comments, without suffering the consequences of such statements, then this could motivate conscious and especially unconscious racists to become more vocal in expressing their racist views. After all, for every racially inflammatory comment made in the open in the British media, there are likely to be hundreds and if possible thousands of other unnoticed comments in classrooms, offices, bars and stadiums.

If the prevalent racist and inflammatory comments against the BME communities in the British media is to be a thing of the past, the BME community has to take the first step.

Ahmed Olayinka Sule, CFA is a financial analyst, photojournalist and social critic. The views stated in this article are personal to the writer and does not represent the views or opinions of any company or organisation with which the author is or was associated.

Archived Comments

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Racism unchallenged by Black MP's

I live in the constituent of Theressa May, Home Secretary responsible for Equality. The Equality policy ended in 2009. In 2010 no equality Policy. I raised questions about the absence of such a policy. I was shocked by my findings. This LA, The Royal Borough of Windosr & Maidenhead, had no policy. Worse still they had no Equality Department, this was scrapped by the Leader of the Conservatives who controls this patch. Instead the money used after the scrap of this department was used to increase Councillors pay, with the inventor himself Cllr Burbage submitting a claim for £30k. Asking question I was barred across the entire LA has I was told that I was asking complex questions in relation to Equality. I contacted my MP, Mixed Raced half Ghanaian Adam Afriye. Raising my concerns about the lack of Equality, he refused to see me after chasing him for 5 months, he stated by concern was not genuine. Words like Nigger, Paki and Pigs were used to describe Muslims at school and again I raised this as insensitive and not politically correct. The Leader of the Party, advised that he wished for me to aid him to eliminate PC. In his blog he wrote " The world will not stop turning if he refuses funding for Equality & Diversity." again a sign that this is just not important. Adam Afriye who is of black descent neither the mayor who is Asain is strong enough to prepared to deal with such blatant disregard for no interest in Equality neither the continual racial slur. It feels me with dread that MP's are elected to serve but still fearful to deal with "race issues" which when left unchallenged continue as the message conveyed is that " we can do what we want as we can get away with it"
Since my challenge this LA have now a Equality policy implementated in April 2011. To cover their tracks they "backdated this to 2010" a breach states the EHRC but whose to challenge Theressa May!

New Labour + Bigotry = Big Society.


Nice to know that you have been doing some real ground work of your own. What you've written is quite interesting, but, not surprising. You mentioned that the Equality policy in Theresa May's constituency ended in 2009. It is quite surprising and disturbing that she chose to keep quiet about it. This is living proof that all the main political parties are in this pursuit of the 'Big Society' idea; blue printed by New Labour.

This sadly, is another New Labour's mess.

Apples and oranges

Comparisons between Newsnight and Celebrity Big Brother are not very useful.

- One was a respected serious news programme, the other was not.

- Further, a serious news programme broadcast late at night, as opposed to a primetime hit.

- Thus, one gathers an audience of around 750,000; the other gained over 4 million consistently.

- One was a 'theory' postulated by Starkey a reactionary 'academic'; the other was a gaggle of bullies (Goody, Lloyd, O'Meara, Tweed) insulting someone (several times) in the midst of a row (and afterwards).

- There's also the individuals involved, the Starkey incident received a broad sheet reaction, where as the Celebrity Big Brother one was a tabloid leader for days, (mainly targeting Goody) etc.

Mr Sule also mentions that "None of the advertisers put any pressure on the media houses to address the inflammatory racial comments melted on the Black community by David Starkey". It seems pedantic to reply...that's because the BBC does not have adverts.

Starkey was roundly condemned on this blog (as were his defenders), and there is a need to critique such comments and bring attention to how some BME commentators will defend them (Tony Sewell and Lindsay Johns being the 'go-to-guys' of the moment).

Whilst I would see Ahmed's analysis as being about 'effects' not 'causes' as he claims, and point out the obvious differences between the two cases he refers to, it is Ahmed's interpretation and that is down to him.

Where I will agree is that "tackling the projection of racist comments in the media will go a long way in reducing racism". How it is tackled depends on the perspective of those objecting. It is also difficult to know what some people have done in response too. It is unclear whether people have boycotted Starkey's book publisher, yet as our Liverpudlian friends have shown us, hitting the 'offender' in the wallet / circulation figures is probably a good way to get the message across.

we need to be stronger than this

Everyone is scared of the racial hot potato. I was disgusted that Paul Ince has excused John Terry's alleged racist rant by saying that he is not racist as he said it in anger. He also excused Ron Atkinson for calling a black player a 'lazy n****r' becuase he had hired a few black players in the past. Even black people do not want to risk the political, social and professional fall-out of challenging racism in all its guises. We need to be stronger than this.

Sorry to disapoint you

But i was the one that wrote and posted that press release after we had argued about it for about 30mins or so before.
I worked as THE CAMPAIGN MANAGER for him for two weeks and during the Saga. As a born again Christian he felt that he could not defend the .ultiple marriage issues even after i urged him to do so after all our father in faith Jacob (Israel) had 4 wives. Further i told him that it took more effort to run 4 Wives than it took to run just the one as anyone can see so Nigerian men can't be lazy. We also argued on discrimination against blacks esp Section 19C of the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000 i have lobbied against it since being shown it by a judge in 2006.

We parted ways two weeks later as he refused to pay my wages and had the front to say that he didn't have a contract out with me when he had it verbally and that he didn't say that he was going to.pay me money. Some mayoral candidate


A Lesson in Humility.
The mayoral candidates have now been listed on the London Elects website and to my half surprise the Nigerian Candidate Femi Solola was not on the list of those candidates running .
It is of no complete surprise to find that he had dropped out as the path to the Mayor of London is a very difficult one for whites let alone blacks I was not sure that he understood it . He had faith but was not obedient.
Here are some of the difficulties he faced as an ordinary independent candidate-
(a) No party backing so there fore no funds readily available.
(b) No experience of campaigning , underestimation of what is needed and the amount of physical stamina, lobbying networking etc required
(c) As a Black man add discrimination to the mix
(d) As a Nigerian add further discrimination – Nigerian leaders are known as Embezzlers and money launderers etc –Trust in the minds of Nigerians and the British public would be needed.
These were the obstacles which was seen when I “worked” for him in September – I say “worked” as he refused to pay my wages but denied any contract made between me – his then Campaign Manager and him.- As a Christian why would God prosper you when you deny another person what is due?Why should God bless you when you disobey His own commandments NOT to withhold Wages due to your workers? I know you had the money and you had donations. What do you want God to do when even the unsaved Boris Johnson and co are cleaning their own houses –settling bills , organising black events which they promised to do and had not done all “year round “ but now do as the election approaches. Yet people were generous and donated to your campaign because God is Faithful.
Should I feel vindicated that he that owes me money, he that I asked the money from when my uncle died so I could send the money home? Should I be happy that he did not even make the nominations round ? No when I get my wages I will feel vindicated – I do have a family to look after you know…
I do feel let down as a Nigerian. Where was that Nigerian go get them spirit buried under the lawyers of pride and dis-obedience.
Femi Solola ‘s attempt was not the first one taken by a black person - Winston Mckenzie a british Jamaican the first (known) black candidate did manage to obtain his desire and the dream, he at least completed the race and obtain about 10,000 or so votes during the election. He managed to overcome the obstacles listed above and plus the additional ones attached to Jamaicans & boxers.
If holding a degree and having a professional qualifications was all that was needed Femi Solola should still be in the running and Winston should not have had those votes etc yet things did not happen that way. That is not all that needed.
This electoral “race” Femi Solola who started off with such a fan fare ended up in a whimper ( no notification to anyone that he has even dropped out of the race) is a Nigerian , who has a degree in English and worked as a Community Police Officer ,and is a Born Again Christian ( but one who chose not adhere to Jesus & not pay wages owed) did not even make the nominations according to the London Elect Office .
To me it shows if you cheat someone God will cheat you back. There was no reason why he could not have gotten the 33 borough wide nominations – he attends a large church and all he needed was to have asked one member living in each of the borough. Secondly as for raising the fee at the very least assuming that there was no donations in the kitty – he has a house which he could have remortgaged to raise the fee – that is what Winston did . It would have shown that you were serious about it and weren’t after anyone’s money thereby tackling the shame of money launders /scammers attached to Nigerians.
To me his dropping out shows to me that if you cheat someone God will cheat you back. He knew of my own Copyright claim in the courts and that I needed the funds to get a lawyer as I told him. But he refused to release the money he owes me as you know Nigerians do. Money which I had worked for even donated to his own campaign to show faith.
So what now? Here is my counsel as a Christian – Mr Solola the first thing you need to know is that you need to repent and apologise and pay up and confess this sin to the Lord – If we confess our sins He is just and Faithful and will forgive us , if we say we have not sinned then His Grace cannot work for us.
You dropping out is not the end of the issue (disobedient) child of God . Let us make no mistake God expects YOU to have completed the race at least and laid hold as YOU took it in prayer to God and He has moved on the issue - it is therefore considered as released in the Spirit assignment taken. You avoid my fone call and don’t return my emails if you had we should have sorted all of this out . Still it is time to take that “Failure” to the Lord – as God is still at work even after our sin folks true. HE IS FAITHFUL THAT PROMISED and HE WILL DO ALL THAT HE PROMISED US.