March 20th, 1982
To the Director General of the BBC
I am writing to protest at the racist content of a remark made by one of the presenters of the Today programme on Wednesday March 17th.
The remark in question followed an item on the medicinal use of leeches.
The presenter claimed to have been told that anyone who had seen the film “The African Queen” – which he had not done, as he had not been to the cinema for the last 35 years – “would have seen a number of large, black, slug-like objects; you might also have seen some leeches…” pause for laughter from his colleague.
I am aware that degrading innuendo of this kind is considered fair currency among the ignorant and the insensitive; I am aware that in objecting to it I am opening myself to charges of obsessiveness; but until that moment I had shared a naïve belief in the underlying Good Nature of the BBC as an institution, and was physically and emotionally shaken to hear such a sinister slur being given its sanction. Continue reading