Why Flo Perry should apologise for her shameful hypocrisy
Former Tab Editor, Charlie Gardiner-Hill calls on Flo Perry to apologise for falsely accusing Durham students of racism and scapegoating the Hatfield Charity Fashion Show.
Blacking up isn’t funny. It never has been and it never will be.
The University and Student Union are absolutely right to campaign for students to discourage and voice their opposition to racial stereotyping such as ‘blacking up’ and I think you’d be hard pressed to find a Durham student who wouldn’t support them.
However, Flo Perry and Jola Adeyemo should be called out for scapegoating Hatfield Fashion Show, a charity event that this year raised over £5000, by wrongly accusing them of persistently reinforcing oppressive racist stereotypes.
Flo, up on her moral high horse, seems blissfully unaware of her mistake and unwilling to be reasonable. But enough is enough.
I spoke to Annie, a co-chair of Hatfield College Charity Fashion Show, about the accusations. She made it clear she fully supported the motion that blacking up and racism were important issues that needed addressing but was “appalled” at having been “falsely accused of something that I would never have allowed to happen”.
I asked why Africa had been chosen as a theme this year.
It turns out that Annie (the racist we need to campaign against) grew up in Lagos, Nigeria and still has personal ties to the region. She talked, quite movingly, about how when she was elected co-chair she wanted to “celebrate the cultural diversity of Africa” that she had experienced first hand.
It so happened that the Africa theme was especially appropriate given the event was supporting the “wonderful work carried out by WaterAid”.
I asked about Flo’s accusation that boys had blacked up in the previous year’s Bollywood show. The exec “painted members of security a variety of colours (blue, red, orange, brown), simply to make it obvious who they were and to add to the colourful theming”.
Not quite the example of endemic and subconscious racism Flo portrayed it to be, she clearly hadn’t done her homework.
Just to avoid any doubt, I pushed Annie on whether there had been any attempt to imitate the skin colours of Indians (in last year’s Bollywood show) or Africans (of any nationality) in this year’s ‘Africa’ show.
“No. No one attempted to imitate skin colour, nor would I ever have allowed this to happen”. So what of Flo’s accusation that ‘models browned up in an attempt to imitate Indian skin’?
“That’s simply untrue – models had optional spray tans before the event.”
This isn’t particularly surprising. Spray tanning is used in almost every university fashion show because, somewhat obviously, you look better with a tan. Why this needs pointing out to Flo and her moral warrior cronies is beyond me.
The absurdity continued when I asked Annie whether there were any black models in the show and whether any of them had expressed concerns about it being racist. “Not at all – they modeled in the show for the same reason everyone modeled – because they looked great, had confident personalities and walked well”.
I asked Annie if she was a racist. She pretty bluntly said “No”, but I get the feeling she’d have liked to slap me.
I sympathize with her frustration. It must be hard to swallow accusations of racism from a slightly stuck up, pseudo-intelligent white columnist when your show had black models on the catwalk, celebrated cultural diversity with which you have a personal connection and raised thousands of pounds for charities specifically aimed at helping members of the race you are supposedly stereotyping and oppressing.
Flo’s argument is that those who attended the fashion show will subconsciously be absorbing the portrayal of ‘African’ peoples and internalising them as racial stereotypes.
In which case, there must be a lot of Hatfielders walking around with the subconscious impression that ‘Africans’ are improbably good looking, exceptionally confident and spend a lot of time on the Power Plate in Freemans. Hardly slander.
When the Afro-Caribbean Fashion Show threw an event last year, with a catwalk featuring a plethora of cultural references they weren’t accused of reinforcing a stereotype, they were clearly just celebrating their culture. Because they were black students, and Flo wouldn’t have dared challenge that.
Herein lies Flo’s first crime of hypocrisy. She’s arguing a classic double standard. Oh well, if black people want to stage culturally diverse fashion shows, no problem. But not white people. No, no, no. THAT is racist.
Of course, that’s by the by because she’d be wrong in both cases. Neither of the shows were racist. I asked every black student in Durham I know (5) if they felt either of the shows purveyed an oppressive racial stereotype that upset them. All of them, without exception, disagreed.
Then I got in touch with a Motswana friend (I lived in Botswana for a year) and sent him Flo’s article and details about the fashion show. His reaction was the same.
In fact, it turned out his school had held a fashion show two years ago in which they didn’t wear any shoes and they used face paint. By Flo’s standard that makes them racist…against themselves.
Jola Adeyemo loaded this motion by using Hatfield Fashion Show as an example of ingrained racism in the Durham community. Worse still, the student union endorsed it.
They should be embarrassed that they have allowed the scapegoating of a charitable event at the hands of Flo and others, who plague the student body with the modus operandi that shouting something louder and more aggressively than anyone else, makes you right.
Flo’s enthusiasm and vigour are admirable; in fact, I supported her as the previous editor of this paper. But it stands to reason that pointing fingers, with what can only be described as a desperately superficial understanding of the issue, is not the answer. It’s just perpetuating a new stereotype, that Durham students are implicitly racist.
Which is, to put it politely, an enormous pile of bullshit.
But the worst is yet to come. Flo’s closing comment was shameful.
I am a very white, privately educated 20 something who proudly owns a pair of salmon pink trousers. For anyone to insinuate anything about my character from that, other than that I probably need SPF 30 everywhere south of Cornwall (accurate), would be unfair.
Similarly Flo is a very white, privately educated 20 something. You can only imagine her outrage if someone were to stereotype her from that description.
But, confusingly, Flo speculated at the end of her article that the University decisions board is probably made up of “white, straight, middle class men” and implied that as such they might not pass the motion.
Her hypocrisy here is unfathomable, whilst screaming for equality and the destruction of oppressive stereotypes, she has slurred white, straight, middle class men as implicitly racist. It’s at this point, I think; one really must stop taking her seriously.
I’m sure Flo means well but this latest unreasoned, hypocritical, ill-informed rant suggests she should be reminded that writing comment pieces is about understanding, intelligence and wit not shouting the loudest.
I call upon Flo Perry to apologise for her blatant hypocrisy and the scapegoating of Durham students by falsely accusing the Hatfield Charity Fashion Show of racism. Journalism and free speech are about fairness, reasoned argument and truth, not bullying.
And if she doesn’t? Well, then we can add stubborn to her list of vices.