This, in part, is it:
"A middle-class friend of mine recently moved to Brixton in south London. She noticed a chicken shop at the end of her road which always had expensive cars parked outside at night, and queues of people through the door. Assuming this was a reflection of the quality of its food, she went in asking for some chicken. Her request was met with astonishment by the owner and the great amusement of the other customers. There was barely a kitchen, and certainly no cooking going on.'If you are a middle-class person (Afua tells us the chicken-seeker was black) who has never lived in a poor area, it may not be obvious to you either that the chicken shop was actually selling drugs.'
If you are a middle-class person who has never lived in a poor area, it may not be obvious to you either that the chicken shop was actually selling drugs. If you are from a poor area where 'chicken' shops like this are an everyday nuisance, you probably got it but may not have found it funny...
A play currently showing at London's Royal Court Theatre confronts this sensitivity by encouraging white, middle-class people to laugh at themselves.
According to Clybourne Park's author, the American playwright Bruce Norris, 'it's particularly us privileged whiteys on the left … who get themselves in excruciating knots about [prejudice and language]'. In this play, he explores the experience of white people moving into black areas.
The problem is that jokes intended for middle-class white people are only likely to be funny for middle-class white people. Staging a play is, of course, an almost guaranteed way of reaching that target audience – theatre remains a deeply segregated world in the UK. But there is a supreme irony about exploring racial segregation, property ownership and class in an environment that remains inaccessible to the vast majority of people most affected by those issues.
On the day I saw Clybourne Park at the Royal Court, there were only eight black people in the audience of 383. I know this because all eight somehow congregated spontaneously outside after the performance, discussing their take on the play. I'm not sure whether this was the result of having been surrounded by white people laughing hysterically at crude racist jokes, or just driven by a need for a collective reaction against the clumsy stereotyping of gentrification from a white perspective. Either way, the play's supposedly ironic portrayal of difference was strangely confirmed by black people who were hitherto strangers gravitating towards each other in an act of self-segregation and heated debate...
My fried chicken-seeking friend is a black woman. Like other young professionals buying up flats in Brixton's plentiful supply of period houses, she is no doubt helping to push up the price of property – the prime factor threatening the future of existing residents. Unlike them, she buys plantain at the local market and spends her pounds at R&B and grime nights in local bars...
Ironically, there is no clearer reminder of the fact minority communities have yet to enter the middle class than a trip to the theatre. To watch a play about what happens when black people enter a white environment and yet to still be one of only a handful of black people in the audience, is a doubly disarming experience. As long as theatre remains so white and middle-class it will continue to be a deeply flawed medium for communicating a message about what white people have, and black people don't."
If you are a POOR WHITE chicken-seeker who has always lived in a poor area it may not be obvious to you that the chicken shop was actually selling drugs, Afua. Seeing as you are black and middle-class, you may not be aware of this.
'Us privileged whiteys on the left.'
You talking about the Brit-loathing PC Crowd, Afua?
'Theatre remains a deeply segregated world in the UK.'
Last play I saw, (Measure for Measure) the romantic lead was black and the bad guys were white. There was also a black couple lapping up the propaganda right in front of me.
'Surrounded by white people laughing hysterically at crude racist jokes.'
What? In the age of 'diversity', 'difference', 'cohesion' and the Multicult? Surely, you exaggerate a tad, Afua. Whitey has been well and truly whipped into shape by now!
'As long as theatre remains so white and middle-class it will continue to be a deeply flawed medium for communicating a message about what white people have, and black people don't.'
I don’t 'have' bling, a gold chain or diamond-studded teeth, Afua. Nor do I want them. You see, I don’t crave what black folk crave. We’re not the same, you and me. That’s what the melting-potters never seem to get. The MP thinks 'chicken shops' are 'funny' at best and, at worst, 'a nuisance'. I think they are illegal drug dens that shouldn’t be tolerated by the short arm of the law.
As long as the non-indigenous Guardian commentator wants her posse to have everything the indigenous Brit worked so hard for, sacrificed so much for and died the deaths in all the wars for, The Guardian 'will continue to be a deeply flawed medium for communicating a message about what white people have, and black people don't.'