Fancy Dress Racism Dilemma For Tory Councillor

By Hazel Last edited 207 months ago

Last Updated 30 March 2007

Fancy Dress Racism Dilemma For Tory Councillor

Maybe because it is Friday afternoon and we swtiched off the hard working part of our brains (the Captain's Log for this particular Londonista has been showing "Offline" since Wednesday lunch time) but we thought we would share this WTF gem with you all as a special end of week treat.

Brian Gordon, who has served as Tory councillor for Barnet for nine years, is in trouble for his criminal dress sense.

Gordon's misdemeanour is entangled in a rather lurid mixture of details that only increase the WTF feel of this little tale, but stick with it: at a recent private party to celebrate the Jewish festival of Purim, Gordon proudly presented himself dressed as Nelson Mandela. The festival has many customs, among them the wearing of masks and costumes and Gordon wore a Dashiki shirt, a necklace of black beads and a traditional African hat to complete his transformation into the African leader. He also wore a great deal of brown make-up to darken his white skin. This, like Harry's little decorative swastika armband, was a mistake. Taking a picture of himself and sending it to his local newspaper was... well, beyond a mistake.

Stevie De Lance, Gordon's Liberal Democrat colleague contacted the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) and now has the CRE's backing to condemn Gordon's "blacking up" and to campaign for the "unceremonious sacking" of the Tory councillor. They believe that Gordon's party outfit is simultaneously thinly veiled racism, shocking behaviour and unacceptable.

Mike Freer, Barnet's Tory council leader puts forward a far more simple and distinctly less contentious way to define what happened: "This is Brian Gordon dressing up as a world leader who happens to be black." And Gordon's own defence is a fabulous turning on its head of all the outcry from the CRE - he points out that he dresses up as famous international leaders everytime Purim rolls round and to leave out Nelson Mandela from his repertoire (including President Reagan, Boris Yeltsin, Ariel Sharon and Sir Ian Blair)because he is black is more discriminatory than the brown shoe polish on his face. Mandela would have to "white up" to go to a fancy dress party as Gordon so what the hell is wrong in this situation?

It's Friday afternoon. It's been a long week. We really don't know what side of this fence to sit on despite having gone through every possible permutation of exactly what was wrong in this situation. So we open the floor to you, dear readers: was it a good thing for this chap to include a celebrated international leader such as Nelson Mandela in his repertoire of fancy dress and to have shown his dedication

a) was it an act of dedication and admiration for Brian Gordon to "black up" as Nelson Mandela so he could be included in Gordon's repertoire of fancy dress international political leaders?

b) was it an act of racial discrimination and denigration for Brian Gordon to "black up" as Nelson Mandela so he could be included in Gordon's repertoire of fancy dress international political leaders?

c) should he do Condoleeza Rice next to bring the Women's Rights campaigners into the fray?

Hit the comment button below and we'll catch up with your thoughts on the matter once we've come back from our Friday night party. The theme is Shaft. This should be interesting...

Image shows the Nelson Mandela statue by sculptor Ian Walters which has recently been replaced on its site after it was removed for the South Bank renovations. Full story and pictures can be found here. A new statue of Nelson Mandela by Ian Walters is being considered for Trafalgar Square. Full details of the campaign for this statue can be found here.