There is a massive stench of hypocrisy in public life. We do and say things in private that we would castigate others for doing in public, possibly the best example of this being jokes about race. Nearly all of us will have told a so-called racist joke in private that we 'wouldn't get away with' posting on social media. I'm not talking about Bernard Manning-type bigotry, but everyday one-liners like 'Why are Asian people so rubbish at football? Because every time they get a corner, they build a shop.'
I’m an Asian person and this is not remotely offensive. On the contrary, it celebrates our entrepreneurial spirit, while accurately acknowledging our lack of prowess in soccer (cricket being another matter entirely). However, the well-meaning liberal brigade will slap a white person down for telling it at a dinner party with a disapproving 'that's a bit racist!'
No, no it isn't. It's funny and harmless. So is doing a glorious African, Caribbean or Asian accent of any variety – and I hear a lot of these accents as a stand-up comic on the UK comedy circuit, usually succeeded by a mumbled apology for being, again, a 'bit racist. 'Did you hear the one about the Jamaican percussionist who played the triangle? He said 'I just stand at the back and ting'. Again: not racist, just amusing. So is comedian Paul Chowdhry's impression of a Nigerian toilet attendant.
I know only too well what racism is. Racism is the guy who threw a lit cigarette in my face when I was 14. It's being called 'Paki' and shoulder-barged on the street. Racism is your teenage boyfriend refusing to introduce his brown girlfriend to his white grandparents because 'they wouldn't understand'. It's being sent home from the Earls Court Boat Show aged 21 because they didn't want a brown waitress. Racism is having your job applications rejected because you have an Asian surname.
Outraged lefties would argue that jokes about race are the gateway drug to worse bigotry. Not only is this untrue, it's also counterproductive. By treating black and Asian people with kid gloves and lobbying on our behalf for innocuous jokes to be outlawed, they are making us special cases and differentiating us from the rest of society. Comedy is a great leveller, and no section of the population should be immune from wit and humour, however marginalised a minority they may be.
We need to stop pretending that we don't find things funny which are hilarious, and bridge the gap between our public and private personae. Castigating people for saying the things we're thinking or secretly find amusing is two-faced and deceitful. We need to learn to laugh at ourselves, and at others, no matter what their skin colour – and to stop trying to protect people who don't need to be protected. I'll start: What do you call an Asian lesbian? Mingita. Speaking on behalf of my fellow Asian females: we can handle it.