A discussion on unconscious racism was sparked on Question Time on Thursday night, after Fiona Bruce directed a question about racism to the only non-white person on the panel.
Solicitor and former Chief Crown Prosecutor Nazin Afzal appeared on the latest edition of the BBC show alongside presenter Bruce, American psychologist Jordan Peterson, and three white MPs, Mims Davies from the Conservatives, Stella Creasy of Labour and Stephen Flynn from the SNP.
During the show, an audience member asked about the investigation into racism at Yorkshire cricket club, saying: ‘With the revelations from cricket’s Azeem Rafiq, and footballers still taking the knee, what does this say about racism as a continuing undercurrent in present day Britain?’
Bruce turned to Afzal first, with the solicitor joking: ‘The brown person will answer first.’
There were giggles from the audience, with Afzal, who was born in Birmingham to Pakistani parents, adding: ‘No disrespect.’
Bruce asked: ‘Do you think that was wrong of me, to come to you first?’, with Afzal saying: ‘I think so.’
The host said: ‘Well, let’s not do it then. I’m not being sarcastic at all, if that’s how you feel, I respect that’, before directing the question towards Peterson, who is white.
Later in the show, Creasy brought up the exchange, saying: ‘All of us have a challenge to ask ourselves, of whether we are normalising forms of racism.
‘And actually I think that is what Nazir called you to account to about Fiona tonight was to say, “we normalise the idea that if we are going to talk about racism we go to the person of colour first and ask them to give their hot take.”’
Bruce added that she always tries to go to everybody on the panel.
Afzal later asked Bruce to ‘forgive’ him for his quip, but said in discussion with an audience member: ‘The reality is that brown people, Black people, people from minorities are tired of having to continue to describe how much racism we experience on a daily basis.’
The morning after the show, Afzal tweeted: ‘I have no criticism of Fiona Bruce. I made point that racism is something which everyone should have a view on, not just minorities. If the subject was say child or domestic abuse, you wouldn’t just ask the victim. It’s everybody’s business.’
On social media, viewers accused Bruce of ‘unconscious racism’ for going to Afzal first on a topic about racism, with one tweet reading: ‘Outstanding discussion on racism on #bbcqt unconscious racism by Fiona Bruce to start it incredible.’
However, others commended Bruce for correcting herself, with former Green deputy leader Shahrar Ali tweeting: ‘I really like the way Fiona Bruce changed order of panelists after @nazirafzal made throwaway comment that she just had to come to him first. She changed tack & said she wasn’t being patronising.’
He added: ‘Afzal is brilliantly insightful on this topic but may have been over interpreting that situation. Plus even if she did want to go to him first because he might have greater insight because of his background or campaigning work that also wouldn’t be prejudice.’
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