Friday, June 07, 2013

Kiwi humour–or something worse?

When the New Zealand cricket team was last touring England in 2008 I got in a bit of a tizz about something said by their commentator on “Test Match Special” Jeremy Coney. Coney had said that Ross Taylor was “not a New Zealander” because he was from the “South Pacific. In fact Taylor was born in Lower Hutt, near Wellington to a white New Zealander father and a Samoan mother. He is as Kiwi as they come  and to suggest otherwise I found offensive – even borderline racist. I complained to the BBC and eventually received a letter from them part of which which I reproduce here:
Coney 2BBC

As far as I was concerned the matter was then closed and it still is. I have subsequently visited New Zealand and toured extensively and spoken there with Kiwis from all different backgrounds and broadly found it a tolerant and welcoming country and if (as some claim) there is a “racist underbelly” I saw no sign of it. That said I have encountered extreme prejudice among one or two New Zealanders living here in Britain which it is difficult to shrug off. I do not lay that charge at Jeremy Coney’s door – his commentaries this year have been fair and balanced and I enjoy listening to him. I think that he made a silly mistake back in 2008 – a mistake made out of ignorance rather than prejudice - although I did feel at the time that it came across very badly indeed.
As I say I did not wish to raise the issue again until I saw today a tweet from Coney’s fellow Kiwi commentator Bryan Waddle. Here it is:
Some suggested to me that Jeremy Coney’s remarks in 2008 were an attempt at humour. Well maybe Bryan Waddle was being “humorous” this time – but I don't think so. No doubt in London, Leeds and Nottingham where the New Zealanders have played their international matches Waddle did encounter taxi drivers and waiters and others who were (like Ross Taylor) not of white Anglo-Saxon appearance. And maybe (unlike Taylor) the odd one or two were recent immigrants whose mother tongue was not English. So what? English is the first language for well over  90% of us and to suggest otherwise is either bizarrely ignorant – or worse. Perhaps Waddle doesn't  like that fact that we have moved on as a Nation and that our population is mixed and multicultural. Well that’s how we are Bryan and as the success of London 2012 showed many of us relish our diversity and benefit hugely from it. Safe journey home.

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