Saying ‘all white people are racist’ is infantile, but it shouldn’t be a crime
I’m racist. Your kids are racist. Hell, even the bloke sitting next to you on the bus is probably racist. Or so thinks Jason Okundaye, head of the Black and Minority Ethnic Campaign at the University of Cambridge’s students’ union. After protests in London over the death of Rashan Charles – a 20-year-old who died after being restrained by police in east London, and allegedly swallowing drugs – Okundaye did what any 21st-century student radical would: he had a Twitter rant at 12.40am.
He tweeted: ‘ALL white people are racist. White middle class, white working class, white men, white women, white gays, white children they can ALL geddit.’ Get what, exactly? Okundaye didn’t specify. He went on to say that ‘watching these middle-class white people despair over black people protesting in their colonised Dalston is absolutely delicious’.
But what was even more bizarre than Okundaye’s outburst was the response to it. Bob Blackman, Conservative Party MP for Harrow East, suggested that he be ‘prosecuted for inciting racial hatred’. On the weekend, Cambridgeshire police said they were investigating the matter (they have since dropped the case). And the University of Cambridge has said that it is ‘looking into this matter and will respond appropriately’. The desire to prosecute Okundaye for his barmy views should worry those of us who value freedom of speech.
It’s not like his views are even that original. Student radicals today see racism everywhere. At Cambridge, a Lion King-themed dinner was recently shut down after the African Society complained the menu was culturally insensitive. The Oxford Union later went so far as to pass a motion labelling itself ‘institutionally racist’.
Perversely, anti-racist students today are creating a deeply racialised climate, in which white students are smeared as racist and ethnic-minority students are deemed vulnerable to offensive speech. This, in turn, fuels calls for censorship. But those who are calling for Okundaye’s prosecution have just as diminished a view of humanity as he does. He should be free to tweet what he likes, and we should be free to challenge him. If we criminalise opinions we don’t like, we diminish free speech for all.
Jacob Furedi is a spiked columnist. Follow him on Twitter: @jacobfuredi