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The new woke segregation is an insult to white and black people

The new woke segregation is an insult to white and black people
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Is there anything more insulting to black people than the suggestion we cannot enjoy a play alongside our white peers? You might have thought we’d left this problem behind in the 1960s, when civil rights laws on both sides of the Atlantic discouraged segregation. But it seems the producers of Slave Play have not

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They’ve confirmed that at least two showings of the play in the West End this summer will effectively ban white people from being in the audience. They say this would allow “black-identifying” audience members to “experience and discuss” the event free from “the white gaze”. 

Presumably the goal is to increase diversity among theatre-goers. Well then I ought to be the perfect target. I attended my first live theatre performance only last year, aged 24 – Best of Enemies at the Noël Coward Theatre. It was an interracial show, with an interracial audience, about race, and we somehow managed to laugh, clap and learn together. 

The words of William F Buckley – a conservative white man played by David Harewood, a black actor – were no less learned because there were black people watching. In fact, quotes from James Baldwin were all the more poetic because there were white people in the audience. 

Yet the same theatre will now host “Black Out” nights of Slave Play, dimming its lights to those black people, like me, who just want to watch a play and get some respite from life’s stresses. 

Slave Play is the latest show to fall into the woke-sainthood trap, which infantilises black people rather than empowering them. The writer happens to be a black gay man. His perception of the “black experience” is no more universal than mine. Yet I do not assume that most other black people share my ideological leanings. Nor would I seek to use my perspective as a justification for effectively discriminating against ordinary white theatre-goers. 

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Even as common sense appears to be prevailing in some discussions around race, this tyrannical force seemingly can’t be stopped in the cultural world. “Black Out” nights have already been hosted by the Almeida and Lyric Hammersmith, which have both received public funds. 

Rather than returning to the 1960s, perhaps the West End should take inspiration from a fugitive American slave who came to Britain in the 1840s. Frederick Douglass attracted crowds wherever he spoke, black and white. He showed them the manacles, chains and whips that had been used to keep him captive. 

In Leeds, Newcastle, Birmingham, Manchester and elsewhere, he spoke to anyone who wished to hear him and, in the process, made contact with abolitionists and converted others to his cause. That, it turned out, was the most effective way to tell the story of slavery to Britons who had never seen it. 

As I remain fascinated by African-American history, I’ll still watch Slave Play when it shows. We should talk more about the difficulties of interracial dating, and the reviews have been good. The Guardian, however, did still find something to gripe about when the play first launched in New York: it “may simply give white people yet another platform to gaze on black bodies exposed to physical and sexual violence”. 

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Proof, if you needed it, that you cannot appease the woke crowd. And ultimately, if this play is to produce fruitful discussion, doesn’t it have to be between black and white?



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Written by Politixia

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