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Tory MP Aidan Burley has been so kind to give the nation an explanation of why he branded the opening ceremony of the London Olympics “leftie multicultural crap”. In below video, Burley explains he wasn’t happy about “lots of focus on rap music at the expense of bigger bands like Coldplay, the Beatles and the Stones which would be more fairly representative?”
What, in east London?!
Hang on…. Aidan Burley, isn’t he the MP who was forced to quit as a ministerial aide after attending a Nazi-themed stag do in France last year? Yep, that’s him…
Burley, and some Daily Mail journalists similarly inclined, once again reminded us of the fact that what those criticising multiculturalism are actually uneasy about is the presence of people of colour in our midst, particularly when these people are representing the nation in front of a global audience. In this sense, of course, the ‘culture’ in multiculturalism is a thinly veiled euphemism for race. What is criticised is the multicultural reality – white and non-white communities living together and sharing a cultural framework of reference (i.e. grime).
Scottish singer Emeli Sandé who sang the hymn “Abide With Me” represents the right kind of diversity (a black person singing a British song). But when Dizzee Rascal performs a distinctly black cultural art form – grime – the racists start to shuffle uneasily in their chairs, particularly when the act is presented to the world as something distinctly British. As Paul Gilroy would say: There Ain’t no Black in the Union Jack.
The Daily Mail initially published the following commentary on the opening ceremony, before deleting the most racist elements of the paragraphs:
“This was supposed to be a representation of modern life in England but it is likely to be a challenge for the organisers to find an educated white middle-aged mother and black father living together with a happy family in such a set-up.
“Almost, if not every, shot in the next sequence included an ethnic minority performer. The BBC presenter Hazel Irvine gushed about the importance of grime music (a form of awful electronic music popular among black youths) to east London. This multicultural equality agenda was so staged it was painful to watch.”
Read more on that Daily Mail article here.
Anti-racist scholar Alana Lentin, said in an interview with TMP last year:
“When you’re talking about what’s in crisis today in terms of multiculturalism, you’re not even referring to the historical changes I have described. The crucial point is that multicultural policies haven’t really come under attack. You see all kinds of policies that are basically the same types of policies that have been in place for decades. What you call diversity today is just another iteration of multiculturalism. These are the same culturalist politics; i.e. culturalised responses to political or socio-economic issues in society. That is not what is under attack. What is under attack is what has been described as the ‘multiculturalism of fact’ – the lived multicultural experience. The fact that people from different backgrounds live together is under attack and it is being done under the guise of statements saying state multiculturalism has failed.”
By the way. While the historical narrative which Danny Boyle presented the viewer with skilfully skipped over the history of Empire, the colonial subtext of the opening ceremony must not be understated (the Queen, who arrived with James Bond, the prominent role of the military). Not to mention the countless national flags with Union Jacks in them that passed the viewer by, or the deeply patronising BBC commentary when the athletes of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Haiti graced us with their presence.
Addressing those issues would be a few steps too far yet, certainly for liberal multiculturalism.
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