Dealing With Prejudice

Sky News, yesterday:

Footballer Nicolas Anelka could face an FA investigation after he celebrated a goal with a controversial gesture linked to anti-Semitism in France.

These matters tend to play out somewhat predictably nowadays. As of this writing, it seems that footballer has already reached the stage of denying any action that could imperil his employment contract. It would be no surprise if eventually he moves also to “apologize” for any “misunderstanding.”

However, his on pitch carrying on is not the main focus here. Rather, given whom that footballer claimed he was “supporting” with that gesture, what it brought to my mind is the issue of, one might say, “underground” gestures. Particularly in literature.

Previously I have seen charges – especially debates on Twitter – that there are novelists who believe they are free to vent their bigotries under the cover of their craft. The argument goes that in a world now far less willing silently to accept public slurs and racism, it is safer for bigots to have their literary inventions voice their bigotry instead of themselves. While not impossible to believe, clearly proving that charge is difficult.

On the other hand, it is foolhardy for an author to try to avoid ugly reality either. If you write in a Pollyanna-ish fashion, as if hatred and prejudice were not out there, you will just look ridiculous. Anti-Semitism exists, as do uncountable other bigotries.

Naturally I fully accept that addressing hate in novel-form does not mean a writer is covertly espousing his own hatreds. Of course bigotry in books can simply reflect our “real world”. There is absolutely a need always to explore that side of humanity.

So, yes, as in life, there may be some “narrow-mindedness” appearing occasionally in some of my characters. Yet I do not allow bigotry to go unchallenged either. Above all, I could not picture these characters spewing venom, therefore they do not.