How dare a white, middle-class friend of Kate Moss call me the N-word eight times?
BAFTA (British Academy of Film and television Arts) Awards 2011 held at the Grosvenor Hotel saw more than just glitz, glamour and grand talent, it seems, when “an elegant executive at a glossy magazine, a curly-haired man” – in Ben Douglas’s words – approached the TV presenter and his companion, and looking Douglas up and down, asked his companion, “Are you with him?”
After her affirmative nod, according to Ben Douglas, the conversation that ensued was along these lines:
Man who shall remain nameless: ‘You’re a n*gger’s bitch, that’s what you are.’
Ben Douglas: ‘Excuse me?’
MWSRN: ‘Yeah, n*gger?’
BD: ‘What did you say?’
MWSRN (enunciating the word with some relish): ‘N*gger.’
BD: ‘I think that’s a bit off. Would you mind not using that word please?’
MWSRN: ‘What, n*gger? N*gger? N*gger’s not offensive. Nothing wrong with nigg*r. I know loads of n*ggers.’
When challenged, MWSRN launched into a ludicrous attempt at self-justification as such: ‘I’ve lived in New York for years and I know loads of brothers. Don’t take this the wrong way but some of my cousins have been with blacks.
Doubtless astounded by such free flaunting of a derogatory word used as a poor attempt of bonding on the part of this white, middle-class and clearly clueless man, Ben Douglas was lost for words which he now regrets.
In hindsight, I should probably have punched him on the nose. Since the event, I have gone over it in my mind a thousand times, dearly wishing I’d had a witty retort ready to puncture his obscene self-regard.
But I was speechless. I am furious with myself for allowing him to get away with it – for making me feel inferior. I can take a lot of ribbing, but the N-word is one of abject humiliation. Without wishing to appear overly emotional, I felt annihilated in an instant: reduced to a parody of my genetic inheritance.
Some friends have told me to move on – that I retained the moral high ground by refusing to dignify his remarks with a reaction. I’m not so sure I agree. Bad things happen when people stay silent. I bitterly regret doing so.
Fortunately (and unlike many who suffer similar insults), Ben Douglas, as a presenter, has a medium – in this case Daily Mail in which he documents this unpleasant incident – to voice his rage over such senseless use of N-word. In the same article, he also writes:
Unless you have been in this position, it is impossible to imagine how belittling the use of the N-word can be. I was judged on the way I look rather than who I am. Because my skin is coffee-coloured, the assumption is that I am a fan of gangsta rap – a man who calls his friends nigger as a term of endearment.
That is racism, plain and simple. My passion is for musical theatre – my business, Fusion, runs children’s theatre schools in the UK, the Middle East and across Asia, and I am a trained ballet dancer.
How dare anybody make assumptions about me? In doing so they are offending not only me but every other black person.
Incidentally, Douglas points out this was not the first time he was so openly insulted by someone in the fashion world, the first time being during Paris Fashion Week when an assistant backstage remarked, ‘You are all right – you’re not too black. I’m going to call you Golly.’
While Douglas acknowledges that the N-word has long been approproated by the urban culture, much like the word ‘queer’ has been reclaimed by the gay community, he is also quick to point out in the mouth of a white man it remains deeply offensive, a throwback to the days of slavery.
While still smarting from the overt attack, Douglas is reluctant to name his nemesis, but keen to get an apology.
I am not going to name him – while he is an offensive idiot, I have no desire to destroy his career – but suffice it to say that this individual is every bit in demand today as he was when he was involved in his first Vogue cover in the Nineties.
Hopefully my nemesis from the Baftas is reading this. If you are, you really do owe me an apology.
Throughout his account of this ordeal he wrote candidly about Daily Mail, Douglas retains his dignified silence.
Dignified it may be, but after John Galliano’s fall from grace, should we not seek to find out who this undignified bigot is?
Or is it right to continue making excuses for such overt attempts at public humiliation thrown about by thugs (and sometimes thugs in gentlemen’s clothing) from the boozy pubs across to country to as far as the BAFTAs apparently?
When does the use of the N-word become an idiot’s blinkered ignorance and become blatant raging racism?
To read the whole article, please visit Daily Mail