Citizen of nowhere

Street names go woke, David Brent gets his wish, a historian quotes the past and The Vicar of Dibley takes the knee

Scullionbait
Reducing wordcrime: one street at a time

Citizen of nowhere
Welcome to your masterclass in soothingly appearing to give the public a choice, while kindly sparing them the agony of having to make an actual choice you don’t want them to make. Your hosts today are Birmingham City Council who deigned to allow ordinary residents to select road names for some re-development but wisely set out some strict conditions to rule out almost everything but the correct answers. First, the suggestions could not include any names of people, which narrowed down the choices considerably and prevented anything awful happening like a street getting named after, well, anyone famous from Birmingham. You know, him. No, not Joe Chamberlain: he was born in Camberwell for a start, and second, his classical Greek was atrocious. Then the council said you couldn’t repeat a street name already in Birmingham, which was an excellent way of stopping anything else that might make anyone feel connected to their local area. Next they said the names must be local names (which cleverly they’d effectively ruled out earlier) but failing that they had to be culturally relevant, and you allow yourself a dry, mirthless chuckle at this point. As if, say, you were the youngest brigadier in the army during the last war. No, wait, we absolutely must not talk about him. Finally, and very sensibly not taking any chances, a special committee made the final choice which, I think you’ll agree, was beautifully devoid of anything that might possibly offend . And, I must quickly add, a totally free choice by resident Louise Kilbride of Handsworth Wood. Read the winning names and weep (with joy):

Trailblazer: David Brent on Equality Street in 2013

Diversity Grove

Equality Road

Destiny Road

Inspire Avenue

Respect Way

Humanity Close

If there is not a corresponding drop in hatecrime we can only blame the existence of the “bull ring” in the centre of Birmingham which harks back to its bull-baiting past. Only once we replace every historic location name with a progressive slogan can we usher in the new Jerusalem equality street.

Shockingly brave

Skye’s the limit
Skye Morden, who used rather hatefully to be a bald-headed policeman called James, in fact “knew that though she was assigned male at birth and had lived as a man for many years, she was female,” according to West Midlands police. We can only hope to see Morden out on patrol with her yellow taser, and we wish her luck in trying to enforce the Coronavirus regulations which are likewise backed up by the implacable, pitiless logic of cold science.

Hateful: Reading actual words that were said in the past

History should never be repeated
Let’s be clear. Using racist words and then claiming people need to see the “context” of your remarks or trying the get-out clause, “I’m a historian,” should be seen for what it is: an excuse to racially abuse black people. The Mail is rightly filled with moral indignation that historian Lucy Worsley quoted John Wilkes Booth’s use of the “n” word in response to a speech by notoriously white US President Abraham Lincoln in 1865, instead of pretending that it never happened.

On the TV show, American History’s Biggest Fibs, Worsley said Lincoln had announced that black people should be given the right to vote and, but quoted Wilkes Booth’s reply which was “That means nigger citizenship. By God, that’s the last speech he will ever make”. Worsley should obviously end up in prison for using words real people really used, but obviously it can never go to trial because the courtroom would end up hearing it and it would turn the judge into a racist. Would it have killed Worsley to admit that Wilkes Booth almost certainly meant to say “people of colour” and just deal with that in post-production like a sensible girl?

As ever, the BBC has been leading the way on this issue and have carefully memory-holed the term “Brixton riots”, swapping it for the more fact-friendly “Brixton uprising”. Young people alive today can scarcely comprehend how racist the past actually was. Shockingly, even Brixton uprisers at the time called it a “r**t”. Their real struggle is now, and justice is our words.

Bold career move: French moves on from comedy

Preaching to the choir
Licence-fee payers worried that they might be subjected to “humour” from the national broadcaster over the festive period can rest easy. For a Christmas special edition, The Vicar Of Dibley will take the knee and deliver a sermon about Black Lives Matter, of which the actor Dawn French is a huge fan. It’s racist in itself to suggest, as some do, that the BBC’s support for a group of “trained Marxists” who want to dismantle the nuclear family would in any way breach impartiality. Thankfully the BBC hit back at their detractors and suggested that audiences would not confuse French’s party political broadcast for comedy, telling the Mail: “Audiences understand the difference between news and comedy content and the sermons do not breach the BBC’s impartiality guidelines.”

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