Melanie Phillips

20 February 2012

When a seven year-old is branded a bigot

Published in: Daily Mail

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The word ‘Orwellian’ has become over-used to the point of cliche. Yet there is really no other way to describe the deeply sinister, upside-down onslaught upon common sense that has extended even into the school playgrounds of politically correct Britain.

The aim was originally to create a kinder, gentler world — with a commitment to eradicating racial or any other type of prejudice.

Supporters of these beliefs profess to loathe and detest bullying, with teachers instigating school playground patrols and ‘anti-bullying weeks’ to stamp out this hateful practice.

And yet, in pursuance of these aims, we have witnessed the rise of the widespread state-sponsored bullying of children.

The latest example was the experience of a seven-year-old boy from Hull, whose mother was astounded to be told by his primary school to sign a form admitting he was racist.

So what was the heinous act this child had committed to cause him to be branded in this way? Why, merely to have asked a five-year-old boy in the playground whether he was ‘brown because he was from Africa’.

What on earth is racist about that question? It does not express a hateful dislike of, or racial superiority over, another person on account of the colour of their skin. It merely wonders, in a child-like way, about the reason for that colour.

It is thus a perfectly inoffensive question from a curious child. The reason for the five-year-old’s brown skin is, indeed, that his ancestry lies in another continent.

So how can a correct assumption constitute a prejudice? The school’s gross over-reaction suggests that racism is being redefined to include not only hateful references to someone’s colour, but any reference to it at all.

Real racial prejudice is, indeed, a horrible thing. But such wildly inappropriate labelling is to trivialise and thus effectively deny the harm done by truly vile attitudes.

What’s more, it is particularly odious to hang the label of racist round a child’s neck. Witch-hunts are bad enough in themselves; but to make a child their target is really quite obscene.

Because of their immaturity, children cannot be held to account for their behaviour in the same way as adults. When the young killers of toddler James Bulger were tried for his murder, there was uproar among progressive folk over the fact they were being made to stand trial because they were just children themselves.

Yet it would seem that those whose collective heart bleeds for child killers are nevertheless intent upon branding seven-year-olds as enemies of the people — just for displaying an attitude that some bureaucratic Big Brother wannabe deems to be beyond the pale.

The seven-year-old from Hull was by no means an isolated example. The extent of such state-sponsored bullying amounts to a kind of playground Inquisition.

Last year, it was revealed that teachers were branding thousands of children as racist or ‘homophobic’ following what were merely playground squabbles.

In total, 34,000 nursery, primary and secondary pupils — including more than 20,000 pupils aged 11 or younger — were effectively classed as bigots for so-called ‘hate speech’.

One child was called a racist for calling a boy ‘broccoli head’ (on the basis the vegetable looks a bit like Afro hair); another was said to be homophobic for telling a teacher: ‘This work is gay.’

A six-year-old was said to have been reported by his school to the local authority after telling an ethnic minority friend: ‘Your skin is the colour of poo.’

A ten-year-old child was arrested and brought before a judge for having allegedly called an 11-year-old boy a ‘Paki’ and ‘Bin Laden’ during a playground argument in which the other boy had called him ‘a skunk’ and a ‘Teletubby’.

Back in 2006, after a 14-year-old schoolgirl asked a teacher if she could sit with a different group to do a science project as all the girls with her spoke only Urdu, her teacher actually called the police.

The girl was arrested and taken to a police station, where she was fingerprinted, photographed and placed in a bare cell for more than three hours. She was questioned on suspicion of committing a racial public order offence, and then released without charge.

Ludicrous, or what? Yet this over-reaction is actually mandated by law.

Under the 2000 Race Relations Act, teachers are obliged to report any incident that is perceived to be racist by the victim or anyone else as ‘hate speech’ — even if it is committed by a child.

Of course, it is not just children who are being subjected to such vilification on the grounds of offending some interest group or other. Last week, Channel 4’s advertising campaign for the sequel to its hit show My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding was attacked as racist for saying it was ‘Bigger. Fatter. Gypsier.’

What on earth is offensive about ‘gypsier’? If a sequel to the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding was advertised as ‘Bigger. Fatter. More Greek’, would that be said to be racist? Of course not.

This witch-hunt is going on all the time. Last year, a beach bar singer on the Isle of Wight was arrested for performing the song Kung Fu Fighting after a complaint to the police by a man said to be of Chinese origin.

On another occasion, following a complaint that he was inciting hatred against homosexuals, police interrogated a Christian cafe owner and reportedly threatened him with arrest for repeatedly playing on a small flat-screen TV a 26-hour-long DVD in which a narrator reads the whole of the New Testament. After an outcry, the police backed down and apologised.

And who can forget the experience ten years ago of farmer and writer Robin Page, who was arrested on suspicion of stirring up racial hatred after making a speech at a pro-hunting rally that began: ‘If there is a black, vegetarian, Muslim, asylum-seeking, one-legged, lesbian lorry driver present, I want the same rights as you.’

Such reaction by the police and other officials in responding to trumped-up claims of ‘hate speech’ is the kind of behaviour we associate with Eastern Europe under communism.

So how on earth has Britain, the historic cradle of liberty, got itself to the point where it conducts witch-hunts against children for expressing ‘forbidden’ views?

It all stems from the collapse of socialism, after which left-wingers shifted their focus from economics to issues of group identity.

Instead of attacking the capitalist West for oppressing the workers, they attacked mainstream society for oppressing marginalised or minority groups that were held to be victims of the majority.

Hugely aided by human rights law, such groups then became immune from criticism and were encouraged to complain about their treatment.

Moreover, how people felt became much more important than anything they actually did. So if such a victim group claimed to have been insulted, that was regarded as proof that an insult had actually occurred.

This replacement of objective reality by subjective feelings was a recipe for turning truth and justice inside out.

When George Orwell created his fictional ‘thought police’ and ‘Ministry of Truth’, he was attacking Stalinism and its attempt to re-configure human psychology itself.

Incredible as it may seem, that’s what we have in Britain with ‘political correctness’, which should more properly be called cultural Stalinism — a regime of oppression and intimidation in which even innocent children are being branded as bigots.

A kinder, gentler world? No, this is where freedom dies with a boot stamping on its face.

 

About Melanie

Melanie Phillips is a British journalist and author. She is best known for her controversial column about political and social issues which currently appears in the Daily Mail. Awarded the Orwell Prize for journalism in 1996, she is the author of All Must Have Prizes, an acclaimed study of Britain's educational and moral crisis, which provoked the fury of educationists and the delight and relief of parents.

Read full biography

Books

  • The World Turned Upside Down
  • Londonistan
  • The Ascent of Woman
  • America's Social Revolution

Contact Melanie

Melanie Phillips
Daily Mail
Northcliffe House
2 Derry Street
London W8 5TT

Contact Melanie