Last week, an incident at the Republican National Convention sparked fury - an African-American camerawoman working for news channel CNN was called an 'animal', and had peanuts thrown at her. An isolated incident? 'Fraid not, according to Bim Adewunmi, who says that, sadly, she is NOT alone...
Work is often a love-hate thing. Some days, you wake up and thank your lucky stars you’re in a job you love in the midst of a biting recession. Other days, you want to curl into a ball and pull a sickie. Most of us overcome the urge – as we all must – and go and do our jobs. But imagine getting to the office one day, and being racially abused so absurdly and horrifically that it makes the national (and international) news. Imagine you’re CNN camerawoman Patricia Carroll, 34, who earlier this week, had attendees at the Republican National Convention throw peanuts at her, while saying: ‘This is how we feed animals.’
Where to begin? This is the kind of vile behaviour that turns my stomach, reminiscent of the monkey chants and bananas thrown onto football pitches in the darker days of overt racism in football. All of us suffer the little indignities that the average working day brings, with minimal scarring to our psyches, sure. But what’s truly saddening about this story is the number of casually racist abuses that many people who look like me suffer everyday – that go unreported and unremarked upon. It’s depressingly familiar. As Carroll herself has said: “I hate that it happened, but I'm not surprised at all.”
And she’s right. According to UNISON, black and Asian workers (in the UK) are far more likely to be the victims of racial violence, as I well know. Thankfully, nothing quite so shocking has happened to me. But being told that your hair braids or locs are 'unprofessional', or being subjected to 'funny' jokes about Muslims is bad enough.
The important thing is that we counter this kind of behaviour whenever and wherever it happens. That means we speak up on the large – and the small – incidents as they occur. We must fight for those who don’t have the voice or the clout to make a noise about it, and shame the people responsible. It’s the least we can do: we owe it to ourselves, to those people who bravely fought so we didn’t have to, and to the generations yet to come. They deserve to live in a society that’s racism-free – and so do we, don’t we?
- Bim Adewunmi