The rule is pretty easy: say something racist, and you lose your job. This is what rightly happened to Burnley supporter Jake Hepple, after he paid someone to fly the insensitive slogan “White Lives Matter Burnley!” over a match. It also happened to his girlfriend, who lost her job after she was found to have posted a number of racist tweets.
If you work in a university, the rule is even stricter, as it was for Professor Jordan Peterson. After being photographed with a fan who was wearing an offensive T-shirt, Jordan Peterson had his offer of a research fellowship rescinded. Commenting at the time, Vice Chancellor Toope said that taking that photograph was “casual endorsement by association,” and that “debate can scarcely occur, for example, when some members of the community are made to feel personally attacked, not for their ideas but for their very identity.”
So the question arises as to why Professor Priyamvada Gopal, at the same University, has not been fired for her recent tweets. She wrote (though it has been removed by twitter) “I’ll say it again. White Lives Don’t Matter. As white lives.” and “Abolish Whiteness.”
She later liked a tweet which read “thankyou for taking the fight to the #patriarchy and the whites. They are a disease which needs to be cleansed from the earth…”
She has since replied to this tweet, saying “I only read the first couple of sentences.” Oh, no worries Gopal, we’ve all been there! She also went on to describe that the real meaning of her tweet was encapsulated in the qualification “As white lives.”
What she meant to say was something like: “Being white is not the reason why white people’s lives matter.” So there you have it: a literature professor at Cambridge University just couldn’t find the right words, and accidentally said something that sounded like a call to genocide. Oops!
Her excuses are nonsense; try to imagine if Jordan Peterson tweeted “Black Lives Don’t Matter. As Black Lives.” It really wouldn’t matter if he meant something like “being black is not the reason for black lives mattering.” He just couldn’t be stupid enough to express himself so badly. If he liked a tweet which read “black people are a disease which needs to
be cleansed from the earth” we wouldn’t accept that he just hadn’t read it properly. We wouldn’t accept a denial of agency of this sort from a white man and the willingness of some people to deny Gopal’s agency demonstrates a racism of a different kind.