Back on Monday, in my post about Prince Philip’s funeral, I ended it with a mention of an article on the front page of The Sunday Times that included a passage referencing Prince Philip’s comment about Asian people having “slitty eyes”. Here’s the passage in question:
This is doubling down on racism with racism. Because the point of that anecdote wasn’t self-examination, it wasn’t to engage in a discussion about enabling casual racism and how complacency entrenches racism, it was a face-value comment! The writer was saying that Prince Philip mocked Asian eyes and that it was FUNNY.
In response, Asian journalists protested the piece in an open letter signed by 17,000 people and Gemma Chan called out The Sunday Times on Instagram:
The Sunday Times’s editor, Emma Tucker, released a statement – per The Guardian:
"This so-called ‘gaffe’ made by Prince Philip was a well-known aspect of his life story. The Sunday Times did not intend to condone it. It was noted by us on Saturday night that the sentence was offensive and it was not published in digital editions,” she said.
“Christina Lamb [the journalist who wrote the piece] has spent her whole career reporting on discrimination and injustices against people in every part of the world and never intended to make light of his remark in any way.”
This is an example of intention vs impact. Even if Christina Lamb and The Sunday Times didn’t intend to condone Prince Philip’s remarks, the impact of how that whole incident was framed hurt people. And their pain should be more important than the intention.
That said, the way that statement was written reveals implicit bias. Calling a racist joke a “gaffe” normalises racism. Doubling down on it by saying that “secretly” there were people who “enjoyed” it is like a bat signal to the people who laughed, telling them that they’re not alone, creating solidarity in racial prejudice when racism should be singled out and condemned.
And remember, this is The Sunday Times. You expect sh-t like this from trash like the Daily Mail and the Sun. But The Sunday Times is a paper of record. Or, rather, it’s supposed to be. You’ll note, however, that The Sunday Times has been the publication that’s been getting a lot of British royal family exclusives over the last few years. And that their coverage has been decidedly pro-royal. Their royal reporters have defended the royal family against accusations of racism after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle told Oprah that a member of the royals asked that gross question about what Archie would look like.
So if even their editors can’t distinguish between what is racist and what isn’t, how reliable is their reporting, specifically on the question of how Meghan Markle has been treated by the British media (answer: racistly) and whether or not the royal family needs to address their colonial past?
It isn’t just tabloid media then in the UK that needs to reckon with its bias, it’s UK media, the institution, just as the royals are an institution, as a whole that has to get real about its systemic issues. The Sunday Times, though, is owned by the Murdoch empire. So how likely is it that they’re open to that idea?