I see your shellshocked face, eyes wide and unbelieving, like a sentient egg that’s been rolled around in a sink a pensioner just finished shaving his balls over. You’ve had the carpet ripped out from underneath you, leaving you pedalling air like Wile E Coyote as you struggle to fathom just what’s happened to you. You’ve become persona non grata overnight, scattered into the wind by a BBC that can’t possibly countenance a cockup like yours. Have you learned nothing from Alan Sugar, Danny Baker? It’s fine to use a racial stereotype to make a joke on social media. Just not when you’re taking a potshot at the royals.
Willingly or not, you managed to mix up the perfect fuel for the outrage engine. Racist imagery, a clumsy first apology, then you add royalty as a topper? A royal tuppence has just spewed out one of our mewling betters. We’re supposed to be doffing our caps and tugging our forelocks, not poking fun. You’re meant to be a cheeky working-class voice and cheeky working-class voices are meant to shut the fuck up and throw their coats over a puddle whenever a member of the monarchy is nearby. This is Meghan bloody Markle we’re talking about, not some actress from a B-list American drama about lawyers. Have you no shame, you peasant?
It’s got to be baffling, being the latest casualty in the great war on nuance. Headlines are often more important than context and emotion trumps facts every single time. You’re either a massive racist or a victim of the virtue signalling of social justice warriors and everything in-between is irrelevant. You’re either a monster or a martyr, Danny Baker. Long gone are the days when you could just be a clumsy tit with a questionable grasp on how his crap joke might be perceived.
The difficulty with arguing in favour of nuance is that you risk minimising the genuine harm that results from such mistakes. It was an unquestionably racist image in the context you used it, serving only to remind black people how they are – consciously or subconsciously – “othered” in the thoughts and perceptions of white people. That hurt is difficult to appreciate when you’ve never been the victim of it and humour is rarely a satisfactory excuse to those that have.
I’m no fan of the royals, but even I can appreciate the fact that Meghan Markle’s probably got enough tone-deaf casually racist bullshit to deal with every time Prince Philip walks into the room. She and Harry might be part of an institution I find farcically pointless but their relationship is an obvious cultural turning point in its history. It means a hell of a lot when it comes to normalising people of colour as an intrinsic part of what it means to be British.
It already grates a lot against the most unpleasant attitudes we harbour as a nation; all you need to do open read a Daily Mail comments section about their relationship for the whistle to set your dog off barking in the other room. By all means, include her in your jokes about hatching another one of our reptilian overlords. Just, y’know, lay off the chimpanzee stuff. She’s already had to go through her husband’s wardrobe and throw away the nazi outfits.
It’s perfectly feasible that all that didn’t occur to you but let’s face it, Danny Baker, it should have. Your more recent apologies are more contrite and I suspect your career won’t have to take too much of a dent in the long run – fingers crossed you take the better path and continue to appreciate the gravity of your mistake. The other option is to run off to talk radio, allowing yourself to be championed as a martyr for free speech by idiots who never fail to recognise that the right to say something shitty does not automatically separate you from the consequences of doing so.
You’re a clumsy tit who posted something racist, whether you intended it that way or not. The question is what now?
I see you, Danny Baker, hobbling up the gravel path with your film crew in tow. The BBC might have kicked you out but there are always other opportunities out there, particularly for a man of your… well, for Danny Baker. Who doesn’t love a bit of nostalgia after all? It’s time for a career renaissance, bringing back a classic for a new generation of fans.
I see you knock on the door, stepping back a little to let the cameraman focus in. You’ve been doing this all day and it’s put a spring back in your step. You’d forgotten how much fun it was, hadn’t you? You’ve got carried away and now you’re not even sure where you are. You’ve been running around for hours, and wherever this place is, it’s a big old house in central London and the shot’s going to look fantastic.
I see the door open, Danny Baker, and I see you thrust out the box of Daz. I see you, all caught up in your boyish exuberance, excitedly asking if the homeowner is proud enough to show her whites to the nation.
I see your face collapse, Danny Baker, your mouth agape. I see Meghan Markle scowling, the baby swaddled in her arms. I see her slam the door in your face.
I see you turn to the camera as it zooms in, capturing the utterly baffled panic in your face. You’ve done it again, you silly twat.
I see you, Danny Baker. I fucking see you.