When watching Diversity’s Britain’s Got Talent performance on Saturday, I couldn’t help but feel proud and moved.
Over the course of the four-minute dance, Diversity shone a spotlight on how racial discrimination has affected not only them, but the way it rears its ugly head across our society.
However, the days since have highlighted just how far there is to go and, as of today, there have been over 10,000 complaints to Ofcom about the performance, with countless messages on social media condemning the group for their work.
‘I thought Diversity was better than using BLM to promote themselves,’ one Tweet reads. ‘So disappointing. Wow, it has spoilt my BGT night tonight.’
And that’s far from the worst of messages out there.
Though they’ve received waves of support and praise too, it’s nothing short of heartbreaking to see a group, once considered national treasures, now facing such a backlash for using their talents to express the realities of what they experience, and how they want to see the world change.
If anything, it proves the large extent to which Britain’s got racism, rather than talent.
Eleven years after beating thousands of other contestants to the top via the public vote, they were back on the same stage to deliver their most meaningful routine yet.
To a soundtrack using a powerful spoken-word passage read by choreographer and troupe leader Ashley Banjo, the dancers highlighted the extraordinary events that have defined 2020 so far.
Coronavirus, and the ways that communities have pulled together to help each other in a time of global upheaval was one of the dance’s major points. But it was their focus on racism and the essential conversations around race that have taken place this year that had the biggest impact.
‘Another disease, deep-rooted in our systems – fear, hate and ignorance, but racism was the symptom,’ Banjo’s voice echoed, before he laid on the ground. A white dancer, dressed as a police officer, knelt above his neck – an image now inextricable from the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota in May.
‘What we thought we knew, some clearly didn’t – Black Lives Matter.’
The performance referenced the worldwide protests that began in early summer, as well as the decades-old action of taking a knee in solidarity with those facing prejudice.
The significance of Diversity using such a big platform to spread this message is undeniable, and for the more hopeful, offers a glimmer of hope that the BLM conversation is something that will continue, and provoke real change in the minds of people who’ve not considered it before now.
So to now have Diversity’s Jordan Banjo choking back tears on his Kiss FM radio show when discussing the more harmful nature of some of the comments the group have received was gut-wrenching.
‘It’s sad, genuinely. I feel really anxious and worried saying something like “Black lives matter” when that’s all we want man, love and positivity.’
With the majority of the group being Black and mixed-race, issues such as racial profiling and institutional racism affect them first-hand. It is, frankly, ludicrous to expect them not to incorporate their realities into the art they produce.
The influx of negative responses fuels the belief that the general British public is solely interested in Black people for entertainment value, rather than as people in our own right.
Diversity are loved when it comes to giving the audience a good time – but as soon as it comes to vocalising the injustice faced by so many, they’re told to shut up and dance.
Remarkably, people have expressed this belief just as explicitly.
On Instagram, Ashley Banjo shared a graphic that he’s been sent several times this week, telling him, Anthony Joshua, Lewis Hamilton and other Black public figures: ‘We the Great British Public will only support you if you entertain us and do not say anything about racism. Thank you for your understanding.’
At its most core level, the Black Lives Matter movement is a cry for Black people to be seen as full beings, whose voices are heard and realities acknowledged and valued. If you argue against Black people’s right to bring attention to the pain that they’re experiencing, you prove that their lives don’t matter to you – only what they’re able to provide you with.
Other criticisms of the performance stated that the Britain’s Got Talent stage was the wrong place to showcase this message, with one viewer writing: ‘It’s an entertainment show, a chance to switch off mentally for five minutes and forget all the negatives and protests and even discriminations… we watch to “escape” from that and for a chance to take a breath.’
However, change doesn’t come by posting a black square on social media and willfully ignoring how much hard work is yet to be done.
By showing this on a prime time slot, Diversity disrupted the norm and brought this issue to mainstream prominence and into the living rooms of everyday Brits, where it belongs.
And while this viewer wants to be able to distance himself from ‘all the negatives’, he fails to consider that the ability to ‘step away’ and ‘switch off’ from the horrific things that happen in this world is a privilege in itself.
As the complaints continue to roll in, I can only hope more and more people continue to use their platforms to speak up for what they believe in.
As long as racism is still a part of the fabric of our society, there will be a need for people to stand against it – and only when it’s gone will we really be able to take a breath.
Source: Read Full Article