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No, Songs of Praise was not racist. Gregory Campbell MP needs to read some history

The Christian MP Gregory Campbell has caused controversy after saying the BBC's Song's of Praise Gospel Singer of the Year Competition was wrong to only feature black people. Bazil Meade MBE, who founded the London Community Gospel Choir, explains why he believes the decision was justified 

Speaking about the Songs of Praise Gospel Singer of the Year show, Gregory Campbell MP has accused the BBC of not practicing diversity, as there were no white people involved. He also found it hard to accept that the participants and judges were selected on merit, and nobody that was white was good enough to be involved...

I was astounded by his comments when I came across them yesterday. As an MP, Gregory Campbell is supposedly representative of a community. He's also a public figure whose opinions are considered worth hearing, and he is followed by many. And yet his comments are clearly ignorant. His attitudes support a white privilege mindset and institutional racism, and it is clear he has little idea of and has not engaged with the history of Gospel music and its origins. 

There are a number of of cultural artistic expressions where it is accepted as part of the authentic representation of the art form that it is unique to a particular race. Gospel is one of them. But its not the only one. See for example, Riverdance, which features predominantly Irish dancers, Bhangra bands made up of mainly Indian musicians. We could also cite Chinese Opera, Flamenco dancers and German Oompah bands. 

In recent times the BBC has been making greater effort to address the imbalance in its programming, where the majority of its shows in the past have excluded Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people. Staging an event that celebrates an art form (with its origins in the enslavement of Africans) that is increasing in popularity among many cultures both in UK and Europe and is a wonderful way of uniting people across the culture divide. Presenting it in the way that Songs of Praise was aired, was a strong and meaningful statement by the BBC. They should be commended.

This strong and meaningful statement from the BBC should be commended

I don’t think much more time and space should be given to this MP to continue his negative and divisive arguments. Instead, he should be making time to read up on the history and journey of Gospel music. That way, his closed mind can be opened to why the show included an all black cast.

Bazil Meade MBE is the director and founder of the London Community Gospel Choir

Premier Christianity is committed to publishing a variety of opinion pieces from across the UK Church. The views expressed on our blog do not necessarily represent those of the publisher.

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