By Eóin McCaul

DUP MP Gregory Campbell is still refusing to apologise for racist remarks that he made over a recent episode of Songs of Praise. The episode in question, the final of the competition for Gospel Singer of the Year, was performed and judged by an entirely black cast of musicians – fitting for a genre which originated in black churches in the US from the descendants of slaves who adopted Christianity when their own religious beliefs were forcibly suppressed.

Despite the vast array of programmes on the BBC which boast entirely or almost entirely white casts, this single episode was a step too far for Campbell. He labelled it “the BBC at its BLM worst” and added “… can you imagine an all white line-up with an all white jury and presented by a white person?” This brings into question whether Campbell has actually watched television before this special. More realistically, such a scenario simply never bothered him enough to take to Facebook.

Establishment bigotry and racist attacks linked

What makes his comments and his refusal to apologise particularly disgusting, however, is that they come not even a month after the Belfast Multi-Cultural Association (BMCA) building was set on fire in a deliberate hate crime. It wasn’t that long ago, either, that the PSNI boasted about not fining a single participant at the far-right Protect Our Monuments protest, a mere week after cracking down on peaceful and socially-distanced Black Lives Matter protests. Self-proclaimed “anti-racist” Gregory Campbell seems more interested in inflaming racial tensions and encouraging the bigotry which provokes these attacks, rather than actually earning the title that he has bestowed upon himself.

The racism on display by Campbell and the vile attack on the BMCA are simply two different methods of achieving the same aim, which is to keep minority communities ‘in their place’ and living in fear. While the DUP politician – with his salary of £81,932, plus expenses – claims to be “completely working class”, his comments serve to divide and therefore weaken the actual working class by inflaming racial tensions which often materialise as physical harm to people in these communities. Racism is a real problem in Northern Ireland and, rather than take steps to actually combat it, politicians like Campbell use it to promote division.

Unite to tackle racism at its root

Unsurprisingly, Stormont has failed to develop any meaningful strategy to tackle racism here, which now accounts for more hate crimes than sectarianism. Without addressing the impoverishment of ethnic communities and the greater economic inequities in our society, however, the root cause of racism and other forms of bigotry – including the homophobia also promoted by Campbell and many in his party – will persist. We need to build a united struggle against racism and prejudice in all its forms, linked with a struggle for a better future for all, tackling the conditions of poverty, hopelessness and alienation in which hatred can breed. Ultimately, this means a struggle against the decaying capitalism which profits off division, and for a socialist future.