1 October 2017

Munroe Bergdorf: Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right

A few weeks ago now I published a video called “The Truth About Munroe Bergdorf”—the trans model who was fired by L’Oreal for her comments about all white people being racist.

While I still find her statements distasteful and her treatment of anyone who opposes her equally unpleasant, there is more to the story than just a clickbait headline.

I have worked with Munroe several times in the past, before I joined the political world. 
When you work as a photographer, you get to spend a lot of one-on-one time with your subjects. You get to know not only their ‘brand’ but also the person behind it, warts and all. I forgot who this person was when I constructed my hit-piece.

Milo Yiannopoulos said in a recent interview that using the so-called left’s tactic of boycotting and public shaming is only temporarily satisfying; 

“It’s nice to see them experience a ‘taste of their own medicine’ to some extent, but ultimately we need to apply the same standards to them when it comes to freedom of expression and opinion.”

The day the video went online, Munroe called me up herself. I had expected her to be screaming, shouting, threatening me. Instead, she was just surprised and hurt. She told me it was her birthday, and that she didn’t want to cause any drama, she just didn’t understand why I had made it and that she thought we were friends.

Her reaction, or lack thereof, knocked the wind out of me for a few days. I felt like a coward and a bully. The video has since been removed from Youtube and I’m glad of it. It was a side of myself which I felt was in poor taste and bad form. I let myself sink down to the level of petty insults, instead of spending more effort in forming an educated and nuanced counter argument.

This culture war is bringing out the worst in everyone. Every day we are presented with a new hero or villain to love or hate depending on what camp you put yourself in. We are all guilty of dehumanising. It’s easier to hate someone when they are simply ‘bad’. And while the ‘right’ like to hold themselves up as the moral, respectful group they can also devolve quite easily into childish squabbling, publishing personal information and praising unprovoked violence against those on the other side. It’s no surprise that most ‘anti-SJW’ Youtubers used to be social justice warriors themselves. Maybe we need to step back and stop looking at this through the very small window of baddies and goodies, and remember that each and every of us is capable of behaving unethically and letting our emotions get the better of us. It is human nature.

The reason I made my somewhat sloppy and vitriolic video is that I am sick and tired of being told what I am not allowed to wear, say, do or indeed think, due to my race - to the extent that I feel like it is radicalising me. It hurts when I hear someone I considered a friend speaking so venemously about something which I cannot help. Not only that but something which I am trying to understand as I grow up - my race and my identity. It is not only personal to me, but to my parents and my grandparents and so on. I am proud to be who I am, and yet I am worried that thanks to Munroe’s message being perpetuated by the mainstream media, fashion magazines and celebrities alike, children will grow up hating themselves and feeling ashamed for having white skin. That, in my eyes, is unacceptable. As the old saying goes, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

A lot of people these days pull me up on my previous support of Black Lives Matter. Some people use it as an insult, some as a way to describe me as a person. The fact is I was not ‘born’ into Black Lives Matter, I had a life beforehand. I had, and still have, friends who are not white. I will not, however, use these friendships to prove to far left activists that I am not hateful. I know that I’m not, and that should be enough. The fact is, I do not hate people based on their skin colour. I joined Black Lives Matter because black lives do matter. Perhaps we on the ‘right’ do not state this enough.

Malcolm X once said:

“The only way the problem can be solved—first, the white man and the black man have to be able to sit down at the same table. The white man has to feel free to speak his mind without hurting the feelings of that Negro, and the so-called Negro has to feel free to speak his mind without hurting the feelings of the white man. Then they can bring the issues that are under the rug out on top of the table and take an intelligent approach to get the problem solved.”

Clearly, there are still issues which need addressing, and if we’re going to put them on the table and talk about them then we need to both do our bit. I didn’t do that in this instance. I let the viral, anti-SJW trend cloud my judgement. I became a bad version of myself. Nevertheless, today is now my birthday, and I want to use this as a chance to do a bit of growing up. As Eric Lomax says in the last line of The Railway Man, “sometime the hating has to stop.”