Of course the BBC are backing Alan Sugar. To the media, white feelings come first

The BBC has had no problem expelling pundits before – so why does Alan Sugar get a pass?

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By Yomi Adegoke on

For a man of his age, Lord Alan Sugar is fast, I’ll give him that. Before journalists could get their bearings of a story unfolding on his Twitter page this week, he found himself chastised, defended and absolved for a racist joke he made on Twitter. The tweet in question showed a picture of the Senegalese football team, with sunglasses and counterfeit handbags photoshopped along the bottom, comparing the players to those who sell the wares on beaches. “I recognise some of these guys from the beach in Marbella,” he captioned the image. “Multi-tasking resourceful chaps.”

Alan Sugar's now-deleted tweet (Photo: Twitter)

The inevitable backlash ensued immediately, alongside the even more inevitable caping, with those more concerned with the feelings of a bigoted billionaire than the group he offended rushing in their droves to apologise on his behalf. Piers Morgan, the white saviour to casually racist white men, came swooping in in record time to inform us that despite his racist tweet, Alan Sugar is in fact not a racist. Rather, he is a “half-wit”, said Morgan, as though the two were mutually exclusive and one cannot be a “racist half-wit”.

This isn’t the first time Morgan has rushed to the aid of “not-racist racists”. He has somehow become convinced that he’s an authority on many things, the most infuriating one being what and who is racist or not, declaring it decidedly in the faces of those who actually know. “Muhammad Ali said far more inflammatory/racist things about white people than Donald Trump ever has about Muslims,” he proffered in 2016. Whilst he was unsure about Trump’s racism, he was convinced of the musician Jamelia’s in the very same year, withholding the “half-wit” defence on her behalf and confidently branding her the “R” word he’s so hesitant to apply to other white men. “Dear @Jamelia, saying I can't have an opinion on @Beyonce because I'm a 'middle-aged British white man' is a tad racist, no?” he tweeted. He, like so many others, manages to spot reverse racism with ease, even though it’s not there, but curiously struggles to acknowledge actual racism when it’s taking place.

The ongoing baseless backing from Morgan and his ilk clearly wasn’t enough however – before he was eventually cornered into an apology, Lord Sugar continued to double down, proverbially flipping off anyone who didn’t laugh along and then shoving those fingers as deep into his ears as feasibly possible. He assured us (and himself), that his "funny tweet" had been "interpreted in the wrong way as offensive by a few people".

Still, to ensure Sugar was receiving optimum amounts of moral support, the BBC waded in to ensure he wasn’t feeling too upset by the uproar he entirely caused. In a statement, an official spokesperson said: “Lord Sugar has acknowledged this was a seriously misjudged tweet, and he’s in no doubt about our view on this. It’s right he’s apologised unreservedly.”

When it comes to these types of incidents, the outrage at being accused of racism is always bigger, or rather more important than the actual act itself.

Many have contrasted his treatment to that of BBC presenter Reggie Yates, who was roundly chastised for comments he made during an interview on a podcast. "The thing that makes it great about this new generation of (music) artists is that they ain't signing to majors,” he said. "They're independent, they're not managed by some random fat Jewish guy from north west London." His comments led to a large outcry from the public, which led to his swift resignation from his hosting gig at Top Of The Pops. He wasn’t sacked, as many have reported, but the BBC has had no problem removing black employees for apparent racism in the past. This year they sacked former England footballer Trevor Sinclair as a pundit after he racially abused a police officer who had arrested him for drink-driving. When Sinclair was put in the back of the police van, he called the officer a “white …” followed by a swear word. Whilst Sinclair was let go, Lord Alan Sugar had the BBC on call as a mate, pleading with the public that “he’s alright, really.”

Twitter has erupted with indignation and shock at the clear double standards, but the only thing that remains a surprise is that people consider this at all surprising. It is clear, and has been for some time that, more often than not, white feelings remain the utmost priority, whether it be because a white person feels to be on the receiving or giving end of racism. Either way, they’re the victim of something and those offended are somehow racists for being offended. Some forms of racism matter more than others do, clearly. Discrimination against those whose race has actual real-life negative ramifications seems to matter less – a form of racism in and of itself. The very same sentiment was displayed when last year, Munroe Bergdorf was let go from a L'Oréal campaign, after the surfacing of a Facebook post that said "all white people" were guilty of "racial violence". L'Oréal said the comments were "at odds" with its values – suggesting that the values of Cheryl Cole who was also in the campaign and once gave a nightclub toilet attendant a black eye were somehow in line with theirs. Sophie Amogbokpa, the woman Cole was found guilty of assaulting, was left with swelling and bruising that lasted for three months. She alleged that Cole called her a "fucking black bitch" during the attack.

When it comes to these types of incidents, the outrage at being accused of racism is always bigger, or rather more important than the actual act of racism itself. The “N-word” is the apparent no-go area, the “C-word” of racial slurs. But what could send a stronger message that anti-black racism doesn’t matter in this country than Theresa May restoring MP Anne Marie Morris after a five-month suspension, when she used the word earlier this year? Some forms of racism matter and others don’t – and sometimes it’s hard to believe that in this country, racism against black people matters at all.


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