Woke segregation arrives at the West End

There is nothing ‘progressive’ about a black-only theatre performance.

Thomas Osborne

Topics Culture Identity Politics UK

Imagine if London’s West End began staging performances of Shakespeare where only whites were invited. Imagine if theatres said this was necessary for white audiences to feel safe and comfortable. There would surely be uproar, right? Everyone involved in these productions would rightly be condemned.

Yet something similar is happening in the West End right now. This summer, the Noël Coward Theatre will stage two performances of Slave Play – written by Jeremy O Harris and starring Kit Harington – for an exclusively ‘all black-identifying audience’. According to the show’s official website, these ‘black out’ nights allow black people to have a ‘safe space’ and to enjoy the performance ‘free from the white gaze’, whatever that means.

Of course, outright racial segregation in cinemas, theatres and other public venues is – quite rightly – illegal in Britain. To get around this, tickets have been taken off general sale and are now only purchasable through a special code. This code will be distributed exclusively to black community organisations and student groups. White – or indeed Jewish or Asian – Londoners will not be explicitly turned away at the door. But producers have tried to make it abundantly clear that they are not welcome for these two performances.

Appearing on BBC Four’s World at One earlier this week, Harris tried to defend this soft segregation by appealing to ‘anti-racist’ principles. He said it is a ‘necessity’ to ‘radically invite’ people who identify as black, and to ‘fill the space’ with people of colour, in order to overturn the legacies of historical racism and Jim Crow-era segregation. Harris also argued that the theatre would have a different feel on the black-out nights, supposedly because black and white audiences ‘respond to things differently’.

Of course, Harris is not challenging racism here at all. He is promoting a form of racial essentialism, disguised in identitarian gobbledegook.

Time and time again, we see the same segregationist ideas justified in the same terms. Last year, also in London, white people were discouraged from attending a ‘black-only’ performance of racial satire Tambo and Bones. Again, this was meant to give black audiences a ‘safe, private’ space free from ‘the white gaze’.

We have seen this spread beyond the theatre, too. Universities have held Black History Month events that were ‘reserved’ for black students. Most shocking of all, last year, a London primary school was revealed to have been offering Saturday classes exclusively for black pupils. School leaders claimed that this separation of young children on the basis of their skin colour was needed to fight… systemic racism.

Like all of today’s worst ideas, this woke segregationism comes from the US, where it has become alarmingly institutionalised. Major universities now host racially exclusive graduation ceremonies. Some campuses, such as Berkeley in California and the University of Connecticut, have black-only accommodation blocks. According to self-proclaimed anti-racists, it is apparently not desirable for black and white students to live and mix together. Again, all this is being done seemingly in the name of keeping black students physically and emotionally safe.

This is the great paradox of modern identitarianism. For all that the woke love to rage at the West’s racist past, they are the ones doing the most to try to revive its most regressive ideas. They are totally committed to dividing the world by race and viewing us all as racial beings.

Racial segregation will always be an affront to our common humanity – even if it’s dressed in ‘anti-racist’ garb.

Thomas Osborne is an editorial assistant at spiked.

Picture by: YouTube.

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Topics Culture Identity Politics UK


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