I don’t know about you, but I’m following the Carol Thatcher vs. BBC situation with increasing interest.
There are two aspects to the situation, both equally bewildering.
First one is: On what planet has Carol Thatcher been living?
Second one is: Since when has a conversation in a work environment become a ‘private’ conversation?
By the way, this has nothing to do with the fact that the tennis player who was off-handedly dismissed as “the golliwog”, is Jo-Wielfried Tsonga, a French citizen, born in France of a French mother and a Congolese father. I’m sure there are plenty of people over here who would come to Carol Thatcher’s defense. “Ho ho ho, this was just a joke!” But the people who are on the receiving end of such jokes on a daily basis DON’T find them funny, nor indeed do those who think that this is both stupid and immoral.
In case Carol Thatcher hasn’t noticed, or has been asleep all these years, when I was living in England in the mid-70s, before the advent of PC, the people who became some of my best friends were already thinking that the word ‘golliwog’ was offensive. And what about now, with the election of a President in the United States showing us that, yes, the world has changed about us, and we might as well take notice.
But the second question is even more important: Where do we draw the line between private conversations, and conversations that happen in a work environment? I may get on very well with my colleagues, I don’t consider them as belonging to my private sphere. And I don’t belong to theirs. Beyond the moral values that we all try to adhere to, there is something called ethics, and there are laws that are supposed to protect people from sexually- or racially-based discrimination. OK, no law is perfect, and none of these laws are implemented fully, but they are in place.
Furthermore, if you were related to a well-known individual, say a former British Prime Minister, and because of that attracting a lot more of the limelight than the average man in the street, wouldn’t you be *supposed* to use more caution, or at least use a better language? My feeling is that even if this was a (very bad) joke, it’s morally and stupidly wrong to say it in public, whether on a TV channel, or off.
It could be just a slip, in which case the least she could do would be to apologize.
That, or be sent 150 years back in time.