An open letter to the Isle of Man Communications Commission, Manx Radio, Stu Peters and the wider Isle of Man community. Importance of addressing structural racism in all forms, everywhere we see it.
On June 26, 2020, Stu Peters was reinstated by Manx Radio as a result of the findings of the Isle of Man Communications Commission. Although disappointed, we are not surprised.
Due to the constrained scope of the Communication Commission’s investigation into the conduct of Mr Peters, with the two main areas being:
1. ’Intent’ to stir up racial hatred
2. ’Use of racist terms, insensitive comments or stereotypes not in keeping with the show’s context’, a positive outcome was inevitable for Mr Peters. Nevertheless, this decision does not exonerate Mr Peters. His conduct was inappropriate, and this decision does not vindicate his actions.
The Communications Commission failed to appreciate how racism and ignorance do not solely manifest in overtly offensive slurs.
Despite the fact Mr Peters laughed at and dismissed the lived experiences of a black caller, the commission concluded that the interview was conducted in a ’calm and open manner’.
It is clear that laughing at a caller recounting their experiences of racism is neither calm nor suggestive that Mr Peters was open to discussion.
The commission themselves noted how public attitudes towards what is acceptable and what is not can change.
We call on the commission to consult with external bodies to ensure they themselves have the remit to adjudicate in line with what is acceptable, as far as possible.
For many, the shameful discourse that took place on the show is symptomatic of the larger issue of the fundamental ignorance to the lived experiences of others; an issue which works to sustain, enable and perpetuate racism.
The result of this show, regardless of intention, has resulted in increased racism on social media posts and articles written by individuals addressing their experiences of racism on the island.
We have been shocked by the sheer amount of ignorant responses to many of the articles People of Colour Isle of Man and other news outlets have published regarding racism.
Writers of colour have repeatedly had their experiences downplayed and many commenters have argued that the writers themselves do not understand the racism they experience.
Mr Peters’ show has been the catalyst for higher numbers of people contacting us regarding the racism they have experienced on island.
It has emboldened those fueled by ignorance and those who are intent on downplaying the lived experiences of people they do not relate to.
We had previously been in discussion with Manx Radio in regards to how we can work together to tackle racism and discrimination within society, and part of that plan was a series of shows.
However, we will not be used as a tokenistic gesture to divert attention from the deeper systemic issues rooted within their organisation.
There is no quick fix.
It starts in policies, education and levels of accountability within the organisation itself. Playing ’black’ songs on the radio and participating in Instagram challenges is not an adequate response.
Although Manx Radio took strong opposition to all forms of racism and highlighted that ignorance was not in keeping with their values as a company.
Manx Radio has failed to properly address this issue.
Though discussed, we are yet to see implementation of tangeable anti-racist policies and the only structural change to the show will be the removal of ’live calls’.
This gives Mr Peters total autonomy over conversations and will only create an echo chamber filled and curated by Mr Peters’ personal biases, which is not a win for free speech but the opposite.
Freedom of speech is a fundamental right and we would like to make it very clear that we do not oppose free speech. However, we all have a responsibility to not abuse this freedom to further marginalize and degrade other groups such as women, people with disabilities, refugees and the Black and POC community.
Manx Radio as the ’Nation’s Station’, must accept the duty it has to be a neutral platform for discussion and should urgently reconsider the impact of this alteration.
If Manx Radio wishes to discuss complex topics such as racism and how it manifests globally, it should be policy to continue personal research and utilise knowledgeable experts to discuss these topics, or at least undergo routine training on how to manage sensitive conversations.
In the future, we urge Manx Radio to approach similar topics with sensitivity. In instances where they cannot discuss a topic fairly with full and comprehensive understanding, Manx Radio and its presenters must recognise their own inability to lead such discussions and experts should be sought.
Presenters should be expected to admit when they don’t know enough about the topic to ’inform and educate’, and their opinion should be clearly described as such and be held accountable to those opinions where necessary .
The statement issued by Mr Peters failed to engage with, acknowledge or apologise for his own wrongdoing.
He has not acknowledged why or how his views have contributed and perpetuated racism and ignorance. There is no humility in claiming ’freedom of speech’ when looking to defend one’s own uneducated opinions.
This stance has silenced the opportunity for meaningful conversation which we had offered. Mr Peters has hidden behind his ’right to opinions’ and there has been no effort to expand his knowledge or to reconcile with those disgusted and hurt by his actions.
We encourage Manx Radio to consider their professed values to, ’inform, educate and entertain’ and ensure that these values guide the use of their platform.
Mr Peters’ behaviour has brought a lot of deeply concerning issues to light and requires us, as an Island, to confront racism that ultimately stems from ignorance and lack of exposure to other cultures.
Manx legislation currently fails to define ’hate speech’ or ’hate crimes’, and therefore fails to adequately protect island residents to the same standard they would be protected in the UK.
We have been shocked and saddened to receive many stories from individuals who have been racially abused on the island, only to be told there is no legal recourse.
It seems disingenuous for the Isle of Man to continue to say it is ’welcoming to all’ when this is happening under our noses.
We have much further to go before we can claim to be an inclusive and supportive nation.
The wider issue of our legislative shortcomings is intrinsically linked to the underprotection of some of our minority citizens and the abuse we willingly permit them to endure.
Howard Quayle emphasised that there has been ’unprecedented levels of interest’ from people wanting to move here and that this could be the answer to stimulating the economy. How can we realistically explore this until everyone is adequately safeguarded under our law?
For four weeks we have engaged with the people, media outlets, businesses and organisations on the island.
We have been encouraged by their willingness to listen to what the people of colour in their communities have experienced and to be actively anti-racist in opposing racism and discrimination wherever it appears.
We see a new wider group of Manxmen rising up of all races and backgrounds, collectively learning to listen to those affected by all forms of discrimination and are educating themselves before discussing these issues. We challenge Manx Radio to be an example of this also.
We encourage the Isle of Man’s community to continue to be vocal alongside us in putting pressure on the government and other agencies to implement genuine long-lasting change that will protect every person on this island, where they feel protected by governing bodies and legislation and know their community will stand up for them.
This is what our island should look like.
As the world is becoming increasingly globalised, we must begin to think of the island as a global nation. We simply cannot continue on this trajectory that leaves some minority communities unprotected and unwelcome on our island.