One form of equality is the one that deems all people, regardless of racial characteristics that might differentiate them, to have certain things in common. One of these is the quality of being moral. That being the case, if a black person behaves immorally it would be discriminatory not to criticise or punish them in the same way as you would punish a white person for the same behaviour. Equality cuts both ways.
18 months ago the ITN Newscaster, Alastair Stewart, got into a Twitter spat with a white Welsh Friends of the Earth supporter and self-proclaimed ragwort expert (Twitter handle @ragwortfacts) called Neil Jones on the subject of ragwort. As Jones had behaved, in Stewart’s estimation, in an intemperate manner he quoted from Shakespeare’s ‘Measure for Measure’ thus:
……………………But man, proud man, Dress’d in a little brief authority, Most ignorant of what he’s most assured – His glassy essence – like an angry ape Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven As makes the angels weep; who, with our spleens, Would all themselves laugh mortal.
He wanted to point out that Jones was behaving with less than human dignity or like an animal; an angry ape.
A week or two back Stewart got into another discussion, this time on the funding of the Queen, with Martin Shapland, a former Liberal Democrat activist who just happens to be black. Shapland, in Stewart’s judgement, also behaved intemperately so he tweeted exactly the same quotation to Shapland as he had to Jones. Cue Alastair Stewart being fired after 40 years in his profession for which he received the OBE by craven ITN bosses because of ‘'errors of judgement in Alastair's use of social media which breached ITN's editorial guidelines'.’
In taking this action ITN made three errors.
1) They ignored the fact that Stewart clearly wasn’t motivated against race but against intemperate behaviour as he had used the same quotation with a white man. 2) They ignored the fact that there is no hint of reference to colour in the original quotation taken in its context. Indeed ‘proud man’ is a general term connoting mankind as a whole. 3) They ignored the fact that true equality means equal moral accountability in spite of skin colour.
In effect Stewart was punished for being educated and the subtlety of his education. His opponent, through real obtuseness or calculated and cynical obtuseness chose to believe that the quotation was a comment on his race. Given a choice between the two interpretations ITN chose the obtuse one thus punishing Stewart for the sophistication of his education something which has been treated here. Hitler’s sidekick, Martin Bormann, once said ‘Every educated person is a future enemy.’ An obtuse take on reality won out over and cancelled an educated one.
One doesn’t know whether to laugh oneself mortal or weep…….
Photo Credit: Method69uk - Steve Webster - Own work by uploader - Steve Webster, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5616233