Stop tearing down controversial statues, says British-Guyanan artist Hew Locke

When Hew Locke was growing up in Guyana, he would pass by the statue of Queen Victoria in front of Georgetown’s law courts. Henry Richard Hope-Pinker’s 1894 statue had been commissioned to mark the monarch’s golden jubilee, but not long after Guyana became independent from British rule in 1970, the statue was beheaded and the remains thrown into bushes in the botanical gardens. ‘I remember being shocked that such a sacrilegious thing could happen,’ says the Edinburgh-born, Guyana-raised, London-based 62-year-old artist. ‘It set me thinking about what public statues are for. Who are these people? How come we pass by them without noticing every day?’ Half a century later and

Brendan O’Neill

Why do those who abuse Priti Patel get a free pass?

Remember when Labour MP Clive Lewis got into trouble for saying, ‘On your knees, bitch’? It was at a fringe event hosted by Momentum during the Labour conference in Brighton in 2017. Lewis uttered the line as a joke to the actress Sam Swann. People went nuts. Labour bigwigs accused Lewis of misogyny. He eventually ‘apologised unreservedly’ for his ‘offensive’ language. That phrase — ‘On your knees, bitch’ — sprung back into my mind this week as I read an exchange between Alastair Campbell and Priti Patel. No, Campbell did not use the B-word. He is far too civilised for that. But he did tell Patel to get on her

Accusations of racism have lost all meaning

The War on the West is Douglas Murray’s latest blast against loony left wokery, chiefly in the areas of race and ‘social justice’. ‘This is not like earlier wars,’ he writes. ‘It is a cultural war, and it is being waged remorselessly against all the roots of the western tradition and against everything good that the western tradition has produced.’ The meticulous, measured way that Murray presents his arguments and evidence suggests a man who knows he’s in for a lot of flak. For instance, he has the audacity to suggest that the death of George Floyd, however brutal and inept the policing, doesn’t actually bear any signs of racism.

It’s a miracle this exhibition even exists: Audubon’s Birds of America reviewed

In 2014, an exhibition of watercolours by the renowned avian artist, John James Audubon, opened in New York. The reviews, from the New York Times to the Guardian, were unambiguously enthusiastic, celebrating the painter as a legendary genius who ‘exceeded the limits of his era’. Fast forward eight years, and a rather different vibe hangs over the latest outing of his bird portraits, one that reflects both the limits of that era and the limits of the man. Visitors to the National Museum of Scotland’s Audubon’s Birds of America are welcomed with an acknowledgment that the artist was ‘full of contradiction and controversy’. His charge sheet is substantial. It’s not

Kemi Badenoch: the curriculum does not need ‘decolonising’

When the government published a report last year by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (CRED) into racism in the UK, it was the subject of controversy. The report concluded the UK does not have a systemic problem with racism (while accepting there are issues), and a number of charities dubbed it ‘deeply troubling’. A year later and the government finally set out its response to the report and how it intends to deal with the inequalities highlighted in it.  Taking its founding principles from the original report, it essentially accepts the chair Tony Sewell’s logic that the different outcomes for different minority groups means that it is the wrong approach to attribute every problem to racism.

Labour’s obsession with race shows no signs of fading

After a relatively successful spell attempting to side itself with ordinary folk, Labour has lurched back into hardline identity politics with a particular focus on the issue of race. Over recent days some of the party’s leading figures have stoked up the idea of Tory Britain being a hotbed of discrimination. Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy is leading the way with a call for a posthumous royal pardon of those who took part in an anti-slavery uprising in Guyana in 1823. According to Lammy, the pardon would help Britain find a ‘path to repair’ in regard to its ‘acknowledgment of its role in the history of slavery’. Yet given that

Are Bored Apes racist?

A plague of apes has spread across social media. Wherever you look, blank simian faces stare back at you. Their features? Sickening. Their prices? Equally so. The apes have brought in more than $1 billion (£750 million) in sales. Eminem, Mark Cuban and Shaquille O’Neal are just some of the famous names who own an ape. Where have they come from? What do they mean? How can we get rid of them? The Bored Ape Yacht Club sells NFTs. In essence, an NFT — which stands for ‘non-fungible token’ — is a unique piece of data stored on a blockchain, a digital ledger, which can be associated with a work of

Jussie Smollett and the rise of American hate hoaxing

The actor Jussie Smollett has been jailed for 150 days after staging a hate crime against himself. Freddy Gray wrote about the rise of hate hoaxing in December… So Jussie Smollett, the world’s most notorious hate hoaxer, has at last been found guilty of lying to the police.  Smollett, you may remember, was the actor who wanted to get even more famous so badly that he hired two brothers to put on ski masks and pretend to be Trump-supporting racists who spotted him in public. They then fake attacked him with bleach and a noose that they just happened to be carrying around, as racists do. The US vice president and

Mispronouncing names isn’t a ‘microaggression’

People can make a bewildering number of offensive transgressions these days: from using the wrong pronoun when addressing people to saying that only a woman has a cervix. The latest eggshell to avoid now is mispronouncing people’s names. #MyNameIs is a new initiative calling on people to add phonetic spellings to their email signatures. Race Equality Matters (REM), which launched the campaign, says that mispronouncing names can be ‘considered a microaggression’ and sends out a message that ‘you are minimal’. A survey conducted by REM found that 71 per cent of respondents said their names had been mispronounced, leading some to feel ‘disrespected’ or that ‘they didn’t belong’. Of course, having a name

Azeem Rafiq and the hypocrisy of victimhood

On the face of it, it seemed the most startling irony. Azeem Rafiq, the former Yorkshire spin bowler who has been giving tearful evidence to a select committee about racism at the club, was found to have made racist remarks himself. Well, anti-Semitic remarks. Which is just as serious, right? In the eyes of many, it was a case of pot and kettle. Here was a man making a very public display of his victimhood, who seemingly felt it was OK to mete out the same treatment to others. #Hypocrite, they cried. #Humbug. With almost no exceptions, reports focussed on the apology that Mr Rafiq gave and the fact that

What did Michael Vaughan do wrong?

Is Michael Vaughan a racist? I hope not. Certainly, referring to Asian cricketers as ‘you lot’, as he is accused of doing – and which he strongly denies saying – would suggest he is. Or, at the very least, that in the past he has been guilty of being egregiously politically incorrect. I’ve met Vaughan several times and once sat next to him on a flight from Abu Dhabi to London. On each occasion I was struck by his openness, and by his enthusiastic and enquiring nature. He certainly didn’t seem a racist to me – the opposite, in fact – but perhaps he was just very good at hiding it.

Bernardine Evaristo sets a rousing example of ‘never giving up’

Bernardine Evaristo’s Manifesto — part instructional guide for artists, part call to arms for equality, part literary memoir —shimmers with unfailing self-belief and a strong vein of humility. When Evaristo won the Booker Prize in 2019 for her magnificent seventh novel Girl, Woman, Other, the first black woman to do so, it was the pinnacle of a career devoted not just to honing her craft but to helping others traditionally excluded from the literary world, through teaching, mentoring and activism. There is a great deal of style to Evaristo’s life story; her childhood has strong storybook notes. Her home was a huge, rundown house in south London with 12 rooms,

Tsunami of piffle: Rockets and Blue Lights at the Dorfman Theatre reviewed

Deep breath. Here goes. Winsome Pinnock’s new play about Turner opens with one of the most confusing and illogical scenes you’re ever likely to see. A teacher on a school trip is showing her pupils a Turner painting displayed in a gallery housed inside a ship donated by the producers of a film starring a famous actress, Lou, who happens to be on board wearing a sumptuous outfit for an awards ceremony, which she plans to avoid for fear that a coveted prize will be handed to a rival. Lou invites the school teacher to an after party that is scheduled to start when the awards ceremony ends. She then

In defence of footballers taking the knee

Before the television presenter Guto Harri took the knee live on air — which cost him his job at GB News last week — he explained that his understanding of the gesture had changed. Having initially thought of it as political with a capital ‘p’, he now realised that in the eyes of most people, including England’s young football players, it is simply a way of expressing your opposition to racism, as well as solidarity with its victims. It is not an expression of support for the Black Lives Matter organisation or its more controversial aims. In retrospect, that seems pretty obvious. Professional footballers, who tend to be multi-millionaires, drive

Lloyd Evans

What a comic treat: The Game of Love and Chance at the Arcola reviewed

Lady Sylvia is a gorgeous aristocrat whose hand is sought by the charming Dorante whom she has never met. To avoid the stiff formalities of courtship, Lady Sylvia swaps places with her maid and observes Dorante from the safety of pretended servitude. But instead of falling for Dorante, she becomes enamoured of his manservant. However, there’s another wrinkle coming in Marivaux’s classic comedy. Deronte’s manservant, unbeknown to Lady Sylvia, is actually Dorante himself, who has pulled an identical switcheroo with his valet. The story is so hopelessly contrived that its sheer artificiality becomes part of the joke. This production of The Game of Love and Chance, directed by Jack Gamble,

The Marcus Rashford mural – an anatomy of a moral panic

Late on Sunday night, less than an hour after England lost on penalties to Italy in the European championship final, a mural of the United striker Marcus Rashford was defaced in his hometown of Withington in south Manchester.  Shortly afterwards the defaced part of the mural was hidden by black bin-liners and an online campaign was launched by the artist to repair the mural. Mr S believes the first report from the Manchester Evening News described the vandalism as ‘indecipherable lettering, daubed in blue paint on Sunday night, [which] can barely be seen over the powerful black and white image.’ On Monday morning, Greater Manchester Police released a statement which

What did the Romans ever do for us?

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is planning to install a statue of John Chilembwe in Trafalgar Square. Mr Chilembwe was a Malawian Baptist famous for, among other things, leading an uprising where the head of a Scottish farmer was chopped off and put on a pole. He is much revered in his home country for all this and his face has appeared on banknotes. In truth, Mr Chilembwe didn’t incite the murder of many people, in the great scheme of things. If the mayor is searching for a murderer who did punch his weight, he could do worse than hoist up a statue of Francisco Macías Nguema, the former

Lloyd Evans

A shrill, ugly, tasteless muddle: Romeo & Juliet reviewed

What shall we destroy next? Romeo & Juliet seems a promising target and the Globe has set out to vandalise Shakespeare’s great romance with a scruffy, rowdy, poorly acted and often incomprehensible modern-dress production. It starts with two lads having a swordfight using curtain poles. Enter the Prince who fires a gun and halts the action. Then the preaching starts. ‘Rather than trying to understand the nature of the violence, the Prince threatens the community,’ says an actor. These intrusions continue. ‘Patriarchy,’ says someone else, ‘is a system in which men hold power.’ The slogan appears on a screen as well. (Patriarchy means ‘fathers’ holding power rather than ‘men’ but

Yes, they’re deplorable – but those football tweets don’t prove Britain is racist

There are two certainties whenever England’s football team plays; one that is long-established and the other a recent phenomenon. Players who never miss a penalty during training sessions will end up fluffing their attempts under the pressure of a shoot-out. And the post-match discussion of football will quickly move on to the issue of racism. England’s first appearance in the final of a major tournament since the 1966 World Cup ought to have been a moment of national celebration. Indeed, that is how it seemed until the three missed penalties. Within hours, though, few seemed to be talking about anything other than the racist abuse directed at the three players

Isn’t it time social media cracked down on racism?

No sooner had Bukayo Saka’s penalty kick thudded into the gloves of the Italian goalkeeper than you could see it coming. Racists were not going to miss the opportunity to attack the England team. And sure enough, within hours the sewer that is Twitter (even at the best of times) had become a torrent of effluent. I don’t know a great deal about coding, but I can’t think it is really all that difficult to pick up certain words and remove them Yes, it does show there is still an underbelly of racism in English society — even if the charge that we are a country of ‘systemic racism’ left