UK comedian Nik Coppin accused of racism in Oz by white Peter Goers who “couldn’t tell” the colour of Nik’s skin

Nik Coppin not wearing a baseball cap and not looking down

(This was also published by Indian news website WSN – We Speak News)

British comedian Nik Coppin wrote to me last night:

__________

This situation in Adelaide has really hit me for six. Not because I can’t handle the shit that Peter Goers has sent my way, but I really can’t believe that an interesting and amusing story about Australian history and sport was met with such closed-mindedness, rudeness and ignorance!

It’s not just the way he verbally abused me in the studio and tried to get me to bow down on the phone, but to actually put in print that I am racist????”

__________

Last week, Nik was a guest on Peter Goers’ radio show on state broadcaster ABC. Nik (who is half English and half West Indian) told Goers he had chosen to support the Essendon Australian rules football team because the team (who play in black and red) were once nicknamed ‘the Blood-Stained Niggers’ and now have more aboriginal players and fans than any other AFL team.

Goers told him he was a racist and to “Get the fuck out of my studio!”

Laughing Horse boss Alex Petty, who is partly staging Nik’s show, was also part of the radio interview.

“It was one of the most bizarre radio interviews I have ever been involved with,” he told me yesterday. “The interviewer even thought Nik was a Canadian. The next day, he said to Nik: “I couldn’t tell that what colour your skin was, as you had a baseball cap on and looked down a lot”For telling an anecdotal story about the change of racist attitudes in Australia, a middle-class, out-of-touch and unprofessional white man calls mixed-race comedian Nik Coppin racist! It is completely unjustifiable.”

I occasionally have my blogs printed in the Huffington Post.

It is a fairly automatic routine. If I submit ‘em, they get published. But there was one which I sent them which was noticeably not printed. It discussed and used the word ‘nigger’.

I asked a black chum of mine whom I have known for over twenty years what she thought. “Love the article,” she said, “Interestingly, I have to say that I hate it more when I hear one black person call another a ‘nigger’, probably because it‘s being used when another adjective or noun would do.”

Nik told me last night:

__________

The word ‘nigger’ is a very interesting one. Powerful, perhaps the most powerful in the language, but I feel that it exists in a very strange and grey area. It’s not a swear word as such, like ‘fuck’ or ‘cunt’ – words that can’t really be used in any context without being deemed offensive – but, aimed as a term of abuse, it is far worse than any other.

However, in the context of a story, especially an historical one, why can it not be used? To not use it at all, even to outline a point or tell an anecdote is surely like brushing racism or certain aspects of it under the carpet, is it not?

I have experienced racial abuse from both sides of the black and white coin, so I, too, exist in some ways in some kind of grey area, in that I get it from both sides and could also be seen as racist against both sides, again depending upon the context. The British comic Ian Cognito ironically went on stage after me, years ago, when I was a new act and said: “If your mum was white and your dad was black, surely you would be grey? That amuses me to this day.

A story I have told that has actually sparked some degree of controversy was when I tried to stop an African man from sexually abusing a drunk young girl in the Meadow Bar in Edinburgh and, after repeatedly and politely asking him to stop, he told me that I was nothing to him – not a true black man – so to stay out of it. He repeatedly called me a “worthless half cast bastard”. He racially abused me to exert some kind of power over me in light of me not letting him have his way with a vulnerable young female friend of mine.

I have been there before with being called ‘hybrid’, ‘mongrel’, ‘half cast’, by black people (as well as ‘nigger cunt’ by white people) so, given that I had given him so many chances to play nicely with the girl and retract his racist abuse of my heritage, which he refused to do, I dropped the N-bomb on him. He, like many I have told the story to, became offended. After what he had done and said? Where is the sense in that? Even less sensical, he told me that I shouldn’t call him that because he had mixed race children! WTF????

I am not proud of myself for dropping that N-bomb on him and I should have perhaps taken the moral high ground, but I feel he deserved it in that instance. I make a wee joke of the story when I tell it in front of audiences by saying that all the Scottish locals in the Meadow Bar were looking at a black man and mixed race man racially abusing each other and thinking “I thought WE were racist!”

The really interesting thing about this story is that most people only flinch at the use of the word ‘nigger’. Him attempting to sexually molest a young girl – that’s OK – him calling me a worthless half-cast bastard – ooh, strange and not nice – but you called him a WHAT????

‘Nigger’ is a terrible word to use, especially when using it offensively or aggressively, but is it worse that being called a ‘hybrid, ‘mongrel’, ‘worthless half cast bastard’? It seems that it is in most people’s eyes. And should we really be banning it from everything and everywhere, even stories of the past? I don’t think so and we certainly should not jump to conclusions about someone being racist just for using the word if relevant and in context… should we, Mr Peter Goers?

Racism is a horrible and backward thinking way of life, but there are massive differences between race hate, a joke about a race, a racist joke, a story about race etc. People seem all to quick to lump anything to do with race in one basket, which is totally wrong in my opinion. By all means stamp out racism, but don’t do it by way of brushing it under the carpet.

True racists and race-haters are terrible, nasty people that have no place in modern society, which is why they whisper and meet in places on the quiet so often. When your ’cause’ makes you have to do that, then surely you must realise that your plight has failed. And since intelligent and forward-thinking people know that these people are to be looked down upon and shunned, I like to use the term, ‘Racists are the new niggers’.

Which is why I simply can’t let Mr Goers off the hook if I can help it. He has by calling me a racist, in effect, called me a nigger himself. I am not that stupid or ignorant to think or feel that way about any race of people with derision, scorn or hate. I simply don’t have that capacity within me.

I will be using these stories, examples and opinions and many more in my shows next year. Not necessarily at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012, but certainly at all the festivals in 2013.

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Yesterday, in a list of things to see and things to avoid printed in Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Mail newspaper in Australia, Peter Goers gave Nik Coppin “Minus Four Stars” as a “racist Fringe comedian”.

Alex Petty told me yesterday: “The implied accusations of racism by Goers (on the radio) have been put in print by the same person and this is going to be taken to solicitors, the Australian press complaints process and the editors and owners of ABC Radio and the Sunday Mail.”

This story may well have some way to run. And with good reason.

5 Comments

Filed under Australia, Comedy, Racism

5 responses to “UK comedian Nik Coppin accused of racism in Oz by white Peter Goers who “couldn’t tell” the colour of Nik’s skin

  1. Donald Mack

    I’ve commented on this on both Nik’s facebook page and his Twitter feed. It’s interesting to see how, at this stage, that this story is developing. In general, I agree with Nik. Nik has done some soul-searching, looked at some of his life experience and found a place where he feels comfortable to discuss various aspects of race and, more importantly, find a way to live in a global society where, to be fair, the issues around the notion of race are confused at best. There are no right answers but there are many negative ones. Nik has and no doubt will continue to explore these issues (and no doubt put some of them into his comedy), somehow I doubt that Mr Goers has done the same. Nik should not have to keep defending himself and I commend any action that gets Mr Goers think and speak on his own outrageous behaviour.

  2. Penny

    Nik is one of the most pleasant, level-headed comics I know. It saddens me that someone is so obviously afraid of losing his precious radio show he doesn’t even listen to the context of a story and panics, when the media and comedy should be about looking at things that have happened and analysing them, not pretending they never happened. If that’s what that AFL team used to be nicknamed, it’s a fact. That doesn’t automatically make anyone that references that fact racist. Then following it up with an obvious knee-jerk biased review is not going to do Goers any favours either. He shows his own ground-in racism by being afraid to discuss historical racist attitudes rationally – this fear that anything that even touches on race is total taboo and must be hidden forever, for fear that anyone may ever learn anything from it.

  3. As an Australian, I can confirm that – as a country – they have their finger on the trigger when it comes to racism. It is what comes with the insecurity of knowing that you’re living in someone else’s country.

    As I’m from Melbourne, I’ve never heard of Peter Goers, but that incident epitomises the thoughtless panic about racism that exists in so many places.

    The word nigger is not racist in and of itself. It has a highly charged history of horrific racism
    To decontextualise language is to reduce our rich mode of communication to nothing more than a bunch of 2 dimensional black and white verbal building blocks. It presupposes a language in which all words mean one thing and one thing only. The mere word “synonym” is enough to show that Peter Goers actions spring from ignorance and fear and screaming “RACIST! RACIST!” at Nick actually sets the cause of equality backwards.

    I could talk about this for hours, but I think this article puts it very well. Race isn’t even a real thing.

    http://apps.facebook.com/theguardian/commentisfree/2012/feb/17/race-is-a-myth-deborah-orr

  4. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have gotten involved, but I have! Just posted this on Peter Goers’ Facebook Page

    http://www.facebook.com/peter.goers?ref=ts

    Dear Peter,

    I am glad that you kicked that awful Nik Coppin off your radio show for being a racist.

    He said a bad word. We all know that that word is racist, and no amount of “context” (just an excuse for racism IMO) around it can change its intrinsic badness.

    I am glad that I am not the only one who sees the world through the black and white prism that we both share. Oh no, I said “black and white”, I might be racist!

    Just a small tip, you should change your name. If you rearrange the letters in it, you get GROPES, and that suggests rape. I don’t want anyone to accuse you of being a rapist because these things can stick and reputation is easy to lose and hard to regain. But I’m sure I don’t need to lecture you on that.

    Thank you Peter. You are a modern day hero.

  5. Offensive? – Good enough for Guy Gibson’s dog to be named.. mind you we had a war on at the time – a real one, not a modern oil fired one.

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