Sounds jarring, doesn’t it? Not to say unpleasantly racist?
Of course it does. Someone who utters such a sentence has to look, sound and act like Tommy Robinson or, on the other side of the Atlantic, a Clansman.
Since I’m neither of those things, I never feel pride in my race, body shape, the colour of my eyes (green) and hair (these days mostly white and pink) or my shoe size. I’ve done nothing to acquire such characteristics and hence can’t take pride in any of them.
They aren’t achievements. They just are. Now, I may be proud about some of the books and articles I’ve written, some of the things I’ve understood or even, at a weak moment and to a much lesser extent, my reasonably successful advertising career.
These are all achievements, if not universally seen as such. Hence they are legitimate objects of pride, in the sense of self-respect, not hubris. Are you with me so far?
Well, in that case, what do you think of the footballer Marcus Rashford who currently stars in a TV commercial saying: “I’m a black man and I live every day proud that I am.”
Now, Marcus has a lot to be proud about: he became an England and Manchester United star when still a teenager, and his club values his services to the tune of over £10 million a year plus all sorts of extras. Even though I may think it ridiculous that our society prizes such a trivial skill so highly, it still constitutes a remarkable achievement.
Such things don’t happen by themselves even to gifted people. It takes hard work, single-minded dedication and sacrifice to turn talent into achievement, so Marcus does have a lot to be proud about. But his race?
Admittedly, he produced the ad in response to racist abuse he regularly receives on social – anti-social? – media. Countless morons, each probably looking, sounding and acting like Tommy Robinson, vent their richly deserved feeling of inferiority by insulting a successful, glamorous young man for being what they can never be.
The best response to such diatribes is, well, none – ignore the scum. Better still, Marcus could get off the social media altogether. God knows he doesn’t lack for company.
Yet not everyone can display such Olympian detachment. I myself have been known not to practise what I preach and respond to insults in kind (I’m quite good at that, but I’m not proud of it). So I could understand it if Marcus were to go on the kind of counterattack that’s his footballing speciality.
But instead he chose to respond to racism with racism of his own. Except that none dare call it that. We’ve all been house-trained to regard black bigotry as a justifiable expression of a genuine grievance. The word ‘racism’ doesn’t cross anyone’s lips.
Looking at the recent events in America, we readily describe as racist a thuggish group like Proud Boys (that dread word again), but not a thuggish group like Antifa. The sauce for the white goose isn’t sauce for the black gander.
These days everybody has to be proud of something, but boundaries do exist. Thus women are encouraged to be proud of being women, but a man proud of being a man is a misogynist and also, by inferential extension, probably a racist, homophobe, transphobe, a global warming denier and a Tory voter.
A word of avuncular advice to Marcus: don’t turn your race into a political statement and don’t be proud of being black. In return, I promise never to be proud of being white. That way neither us will be called a racist.