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Why does the BBC think it’s acceptable to repeat racial slurs?

7 Sept 2020

Hamdi Rage

Why does the BBC think it’s acceptable to repeat racial slurs?

When I say ‘the N word’, you all know what i am talking about. You think of the derogatory and highly charged racial slur that has been aimed at black people for centuries. It is a painful and malicious reminder of the anguish black people have had to face in western society. Because of this, it is not a word I use in my vocabulary as a black person. However, on an unsuspecting Wednesday morning at 10:30am, the BBC deemed it okay to allow a white reporter to say it in its entirety.

When reporting on a story about a vile racial attack in Bristol on a 21 year old black man, BBC reporter Fiona Lamdin found it necessary to reiterate that “as the men ran away, they hurled racial abuse, calling him a n*****”. This was deemed acceptable by the BBC as it was prefaced with a warning. However, as seen with the flood of outrage on BBC, the general public is in disagreement. When did it become socially acceptable for a white reporter to use the N word on tv, before watershed no less?

After backlash from the public, the BBC issued a statement. “This was a story about a shocking unprovoked attack on a young black man. His family told the BBC about the racist language used by the attackers and wanted to see the full facts made public”. However, this comment did not clear the situation as they issued no real apology recognising their fault. A segment that was supposed to show the racial violence still present in Britain today became a segment that reproduced this violence due to their unnecessary and uncalled for repetition of the N word. Instead of choosing to simply document and inform the public on the vile action, the BBC used the opportunity to further offend and inflict unnecessary trauma to an entire community. Even if it was necessary to “see the full facts made public”, saying ‘the N word’ or ‘racial slur’ would have sufficed in properly illustrating the story.

When I first saw the segment, I reeled back in disbelief. Surely the BBC didn’t give a white woman the go ahead to use the N word. If the BBC can use the N word in all its glory, what of the general public? By using this slur, the BBC has contributed to further normalising its use. If the BBC can use it for contextual purposes, then surely the public can too, right? This is the slippery slope that we are heading towards, and the unforeseen impact this can have on an already systematically racist society.

There is no reasoning that could make the use of such a derogatory term acceptable. If black people in Britain are not free from the trauma of hearing racial slurs when watching a BBC segment, when are they? By brushing off the situation, the BBC is complicit in perpetrating and reinforcing wider racial structures. It also simultaneously gas lights black brits into thinking they’re overreacting by opposing esteemed news outlets being discriminatory in their language.

This is an example of a deliberate lack of sensitivity and poor judgement, especially during the current climate. It shows that no real change, nor effort has been made to tackle racial issues at its core. It is time for the BBC to be held accountable by issuing a real and transparent apology for alienating black people further, one that isn’t followed up with excuses, and by detailing how they will ensure that this grotesque decision is not given the green light again.

image from BBC