In this episode I talk about an article I’ve written (in English) in response to The Sunday Times’ remark that seems to condone, approve and trivialise Prince Philip’s racist “gaffes”. 

哈喽,大家好,我是Kaycee。

上周,英国《星期日泰晤士报》发表了一个头版新闻,为了纪念已故的菲利普亲王。不幸的是,因为报道这篇新闻的首席驻地记者写了一句非常具有争议性的这样一句话,就把公众的注意力从对菲利普亲王的哀悼转移到了对亚洲人的种族歧视上。

Christina Lamb 在关于菲利普亲王的封面故事的第三段中写道:”菲利普亲王是英国历史上任职时间最长的王室成员–他常常是个老顽固的形象,用狭长的眼睛这样的口误冒犯他人,即便在暗地里我们还是相当喜欢这些口误的。“

“狭长的眼睛 “是指1986年的一个事件,当时菲利普亲王对一个在中国学习的英国学生说了了蛮有争议的这样一句话,他说:”如果你在这里待久了,你会带着狭长的眼睛回家的。”

菲利普亲王在1986年说的这一句话,我相信大家都同意,是有种族歧视的含义的。但是过去那么久了,也不必刻意的去追究这句话。相反,正是Christina Lamb在2021年说到的“即便在暗地里我们还是相当喜欢这些口误的”这句话,怎么读都让人感觉不舒服。我对于这句话,以及《星期日泰晤士报》其他员工(包括其总编辑)的回应,进行了一些语言分析,也提出了一些问题和顾虑。已经发表在我的网站上了,在Blog那一栏下面。因为是分析英国报纸用英文写的新闻,我就直接用英语分析了。在这儿就不重新都翻译一遍了,就高度概括一下我写的内容吧。

首先,先说一下我写这篇文章的意图吧。

我写这篇文章的主要目的是想试图促进新闻界的问责制度,也让大家可以从一个批判性的思维方式来看这一事件。

那就简要的说一下我的一些困惑吧:

  • Christina Lamb能写出这样的话,Emma Tucker,作为编辑,对这篇新闻文章的认可,以及《星期日泰晤士报》的其他员工试图淡化种族歧视的言论,这一切是否表明英国社会仍然存在制度性、结构性和系统性的种族主义呢?
  • Christina Lamb所提到的暗中喜欢这些口误的 “我们 “,到底是谁?
  • 暗中享受这些 口误难道不是在某种程度上对这些口误的认可吗?Christina Lamb把这种暗中喜欢带到台面上来,不就成了一种公开的认可了吗?
  • 《星期日泰晤士报》表示他们原来的意图并不是对这个言论的认可,那他们是否是在暗示有可能认可菲利普亲王在种族和社会经济方面的其他所谓的口误呢?
  • 《星期日泰晤士报》的回应中是否有指责受害者的成分?
  • 《星期日泰晤士报》,特别是Christina Lamb,是否是在表演反歧视的观点而并没有言行一致?

我试图用了一个问问题的方式来激发读者批判性的思维,而不只是一个劲儿的传播我自己的想法。

但是如果你问我:制度性、结构性和系统性的种族主义存在吗?我可以很肯定的告诉你,以我自己的亲生经历而言,我认为是存在的。从小到大,从我10岁,能听懂英文的时候开始,走在路上就有人冲着我喊各种歧视的口号或语言,那些chinky什么的话,不同版本的东西,都听过很多很多遍了,已经麻木了。

在英国,我感受到的是:一方面表示很欢迎移民、很欢迎外来人口,另一方面又总是有很多的间接性的歧视和偏见。就像这个新闻,她完全可以写成:”菲利普亲王是英国历史上任职时间最长的王室成员–他常常是个老顽固的形象,也时常出现口误的情况,但即便如此我们还是很欣赏、很尊重菲利普亲王。“ 但不,她非要举“狭长的眼睛“这个例子,还要补充一句她和其他人在暗地里都还“相当喜欢这些口误“。为什么呢?是吧?

不同的人都有自己的特点(包括长相,包括口音)所以为什么不能多一些包容和接受,少一些偏见、歧视和无聊的评论呢?

如果大家喜欢这篇英文文章,欢迎大家分享给周围的朋友或家人。当然,也欢迎大家表达自己的想法。

那好,那我们下期见。

Last week, British newspaper “The Sunday Times” published a front-page cover story to commemorate the late Prince Philip. Unfortunately, one sentence from the chief foreign correspondent covering the story has since distracted public attention from mourning for Prince Philip and towards racism against Asians.

Christina Lamb wrote, in the third paragraph of the cover story on Prince Philip, that “Prince Philip was the longest-serving royal consort in British history – an often crotchety figure, offending people with gaffes about slitty eyes, even if secretly we rather enjoyed them.” 

“Slitty eyes” was in reference to an incident in 1986 in which Prince Philip made the controversial comment to a British student studying in China saying, “If you stay here much longer, you’ll go home with slitty eyes.” (MyLondon).

It also comes at an unfortunate time in the sense that it seems to directly contradict certain aspects of the recent report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (the Report), which significantly downplayed the impact of institutional racism in the UK. If there is any sign that institutional racism still exists, it is Christina Lamb’s authorship of the article, Emma Tucker (the editor)’s approval of the article and other employees of the Sunday Times that have tried to downplay the racist remark.

In this post, I wanted to express some of my concerns and questions, in an attempt to seek more accountability from the news industry in the future.

Executive summary of my questions:

  • Is Christina Lamb’s news story, along with Stephen Bleach’s response to a complaint and Emma Tucker’s statement, a sign that institutional, structural and systemic racism still exist in British society?
  • Who’s this “we” that secretly enjoyed the “gaffes”?
  • Is secret enjoyment of these “gaffes” not approval of these “gaffes” on some level? For Christina Lamb to bring this secret enjoyment to the surface, does that not become an open approval? 
  • The Sunday Times expressed that they didn’t want to suggest approval for that “particular remark”, are they implying that they may approve of Prince Philip’s other racially and socio-economically questionable “gaffes”? 
  • Is there an element of victim blaming in the Sunday Times’ responses?
  • Is there an element of performative anti-discrimination displayed by the Sunday Times and, specifically, Christina Lamb?

Breaking down language used in Christina Lamb’s original news article

Prince Philip’s initial comment aside, who’s this “we” that Christina Lamb referenced that secretly enjoyed these “gaffes”? It can’t be the entire UK or any country within the UK because one assumes that most, if not all, of the 393,141 people of Chinese ethnicity living in the UK (as at 2011) did not enjoy that particular comment made by Prince Philip. 

The “gaffes” that Christina Lamb mentioned also include other incidents, for example:

  • In 2003, when Prince Philip said to the President of Nigeria, who was in national dress: “You look like you’re ready for bed!” (MyLondon); and
  • When Prince Philip once asked a Romford schoolboy if he could write – despite the fact that he’d written a letter to the Queen and successfully invited her to visit the East London town (MyLondon).

One assumes the royal “we” (no puns intended) also do not include people of other ethnic minority or socio-economic backgrounds that may have found Prince Philip’s other “gaffes” offensive.  

So who’s this “we” that Christina Lamb is referring to? The 100% of racists (white or otherwise) that the Sunday Times deem to be their target audience? Is that how the Sunday Times want to market themselves?

Breaking down language used in Stephen Bleach’s response to a complaint

When people complained to the Sunday Times, one of the responses received was from Stephen Bleach, the Letters Editor.

Stephen Bleach wrote: “Thanks for getting in touch. The intention here was to reflect the affection in which Prince Philip was held by so many, despite his imperfections; it was absolutely not intended to suggest approval for that particular remark, and we very much regret that some readers have taken it as doing so. The phrase was removed from our digital edition but regrettably it was too late to remove it from the print edition.

I have made the senior editors aware of your comments. Their decisions are informed by the feedback we receive, so we’re grateful to you for raising this and will take your point on board when preparing future editions.”

Let’s have a look at the language used here, shall we? Or, rather, the lack thereof. Specifically, the lack of an apology. 

Stephen Bleach speaks of intention. The intention of whether something is offensive can be measured in the meaning of the language itself or the context in which it is used. 

Turning to the juxtaposition and the use of language itself first. If this suggested target group of “we” secretly enjoyed the supposed “gaffes”, is that not expressing approval on a ‘guilty pleasure’ level? Now that Christina Lamb has brought this secret enjoyment to the surface to be openly acknowledged, doesn’t that now become an open approval? And giving the Sunday Times the benefit of the doubt that they didn’t want to suggest approval for that “particular remark”, are they implying that they may approve of Prince Philip’s other “gaffes”, such as the ones said to the Nigerian president or the Romford schoolboy? 

Contextualism, on the other hand, is often used by those seeking to defend themselves, claiming they thought it was ‘funny’ or that they ‘didn’t mean it that way’. Stephen Bleach tried to appeal to this view when he claimed that the intention was to reflect the affection for Prince Philip and not the approval of that “particular remark”. He abdicates responsibility further by claiming it is some of the readers who had misunderstood this context, for which he “regrets”. Is there a subtle shift of blame onto the readers who have felt offended by Christina Lamb’s word choices? 

If a large number of people have felt that what Christina Lamb wrote is offensive (currently at over 60,000 on a relevant change.org petition), we cannot continue to whitewash (no puns intended) an unpleasant display of racism. 

If we really did not intend to condone or make light of his remarks, stopping at “offending people with gaffes” would honestly have been fine.

Breaking down language used in Emma Tucker’s statement

The editor, Emma Tucker, appealed to “personalism” within the contextualist ideology when she said that “Christina Lamb has spent her whole career reporting on discrimination and injustices against people in every part of the world and never intended to make light of his remark in any way.” (the Guardian). 

Personalism is the idea that beliefs, intentions, and qualities of a speaker are central to what gives words their meaning. According to Emma Tucker, Christina Lamb’s past reporting on discrimination and injustice against people seems to mean that she can’t possibly have meant what she decided to write. If that’s the case, there might be a bigger problem. 

How did someone who spent much of her career exposing discrimination and injustice end up writing something so controversial, if not distasteful? After all, she did deliberately choose to comment on Prince Philip’s “gaffes”, specifically identifying the incident regarding “slitty eyes”, and revealing that she and other people have secretly “rather enjoyed them”. How did she not recognise that the sentence she had drafted could be offensive? How could she report on discrimination and, at the same time, secretly find discrimination enjoyable? 

Is this performative allyship or is there a larger force at play here? Namely, institutional, structural and systemic racism (according to the definitions given in the Report) that’s distorting her judgment. 

If certain of our journalists and news editors, whose job is to use words to tell stories, cannot tell when certain words placed in a certain way can cause offense, is that good enough a reason to lose faith in those journalists and editors? 

Is that good enough a reason to believe that institutional, structural and systemic racism is still so ingrained in our society that even some of our journalists and editors cannot recognise, until pointed out to them, that the phrases they have chosen can be offensive? 

Is that good enough a reason to believe that more education is needed to eradicate such racism?

I should think so. 

As a society, I hope we can all recognise and have the courage to point it out when something is discriminatory (whether verbal or non-verbal, directly or indirectly). Only by speaking up can we slowly break the vicious cycle of institutional, structural and systemic racism that very much still exist in our modern society.

Finally, my thoughts are with the Queen and her family for their recent loss. Prince Philip, may he rest in peace.

Note:

∆ For the avoidance of doubt, “our” here is from a British national making a reference to people or situations in Great Britain.

Whilst you’re here, if you are a British national or British resident, please consider signing the petition calling for the UK government to fund additional support for victims of COVID-19 racism and anti-racism programmes.