Weekly Boffin no. 19

It is impossible to go through life without making mistakes. From childhood we all do and say things we wish we could erase from our personal ledgers. If you're in the public eye these situations are often magnified and in many cases rightly so. This week has seen a political figure come under scrutiny as MP Anne Marie Morris was suspended for using a racist term during public discussions about Brexit. This outburst sparked the usual back and forth about whether Morris should lose her job or if we were overreacting to "a storm in a teacup". Regardless of political affiliation, the fallout opens up a wider debate on perception of language. Those in support of Morris are by and large white, middle class people who haven't ever experienced genuine discrimination on a wider scale. It has been suggested that the phrase was merely a slip of the tongue but for most people in 21st Century Britain that word is no longer in our conversational lexicon. I have no doubt that Anne Marie Morris wold be mortified to be considered a racist. However, if one uses terms like this then at best you don't understand constitutes racism. The key to this is simple, it doesn't matter how using the word makes you and your peers feel, it is simply about the feelings of the people being referenced. As someone with a disability I hear derogatory language relating to my condition on a daily basis. Words like "spastic" and "retard" are still common parlance in the UK and it rarely crosses anyone's mind that someone would be offended by these terms. There exists an idea that it isn't hate speech because you're not directly speaking to a person who is affected by such remarks. As excuses go it's pretty flimsy and it continues to normalise such unpleasant behaviour. One of the most frustrating things about situations like these is that if you call someone out for using offensive language then you're accused of overreacting and being in the "PC Brigade". I recently wrote an article criticising a boxer for his use of the word "retard" at a press conference. I was inundated with people explaining to me how I had misunderstood the situation. Journalist Carl Anka wrote a fantastic, if profoundly depressing article on the N-word in which he says "dictating what is and isn’t racist to a black person is in itself a racist act". This distils the issue very well and returns to the point that you aren't the ultimate judge of how your language is perceived. The way we talk has an effect on those around us, positively and negatively. It shapes how we our considered by friends and work colleagues alike. What the events of this week teaches us is that we're still a long from a perfect society but by choosing how we represent ourselves through words we can try and be better people.

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On This Day

On this day in 100 BC Julius Caesar was born. He went on to become the Dictator of Rome and also invented a truly delicious salad before being assassinated in 44BC.

What's On

Watch the world's best para athletes compete in the IPC ParaAthletics world championships this weekend at the Olympic Stadium. More details here.

Fact Of The Week

The Icecreamists shop in London has one renowned flavor: Baby Gaga. The cream is made using human breast milk. The milk was donated from women who saw an online advertisement and was allegedly screened and pasteurised for safety. The treat is flavoured with vanilla and lemon zest and sold for around £17. That may seem steep, but it sold out within days of being introduced.