M.I.A. and Ginger Insurgency

Intense new video (almost a mini-movie) for the new M.I.A. song “Born Free.”  (Caveat: nudity and a lot of violence.)

Spoiler alert: it’s sort of derivative of “District 9” with grittier/ more violent depictions of brutal (and multiracial) U.S. troops terrorizing, beating, arresting, & assassinating innocent civilians… who turn out to have been singled out because they have red hair.  So, it’s a clever and somewhat absurdist re-imagining of racism as directed at red-heads, and an indigenous insurgency (a la the Tamil Tigers) led by outlaw gingers… until you realize/remember/learn that prejudice against “Gingers” is a apparently a real phenomenon in the U.K.

E.g. this blog Gingerism, “documenting the existence of gingerism in mainstream society;”

This British comedian Catherine Tate’s show’s episode about a victim of prejudice and abuse being offered refuge at a shelter for Gingers:

“I am what I am!… The people in the village spit at me, the children throw dog matter in the letter box, and you’re telling me to accept myself!  It’s just not fair!”

“I know, Sandra; but at the end of the day there will always be those who can’t bring themselves to accept people who are…”

“You can’t say it.”

“… Ginger.”

OK, I guess this is a much more widespread meme than I realized:

In modern-day UK, the words “ginger” or “ginga” are sometimes derogatorily used to describe red-headed people (“ginger” is not often considered insulting; the abbreviation “ginge” is much more commonly used derogatorily), with terms such as “gingerphobia” (fear of redheads) or “gingerism” (prejudice against redheads) used by the media. Some have speculated that the dislike of red-hair may derive from the historical English sentiment that people of Irish or Celtic background, with a greater prevalence of red hair, were ethnically inferior. Redheads are also sometimes referred to disparagingly as “carrot tops” and “carrot heads”. “Gingerism” has been compared to racism, although this is widely disputed, and bodies such as the UK Commission for Racial Equality do not monitor cases of discrimination and hate crimes against redheads. A UK woman recently won an award from a tribunal after being sexually harassed and receiving abuse because of her red hair; a family in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, was forced to move twice after being targeted for abuse and hate crime on account of their red hair; and in 2003, a 20 year old was stabbed in the back for “being ginger”. In May 2009, a British schoolboy committed suicide after being bullied for having red hair. The British singer Mick Hucknall, who believes that he has repeatedly faced prejudice or been described as ugly on account of his hair colour, argues that Gingerism should be described as a form of racism. This prejudice has been satirised on a number of TV shows. The British comedian Catherine Tate (herself a redhead) appeared as a red haired character in a running sketch of her series The Catherine Tate Show. The sketch saw fictional character Sandra Kemp, who was forced to seek solace in a refuge for ginger people because they had been ostracised from society. The British comedy Bo’ Selecta! (starring redhead Leigh Francis) featured a spoof documentary which involved a caricature of Mick Hucknall presenting a show in which celebrities (played by themselves) dyed their hair red for a day and went about daily life being insulted by people. The pejorative use of the word “ginger” and related discrimination was used to illustrate a point about racism and prejudice in the “Ginger Kids”, “Le Petit Tourette” and “Fatbeard” episodes of South Park.

As a member of a family full of red-heads, I deplore this senseless bias!

2 thoughts on “M.I.A. and Ginger Insurgency”

  1. Did you ever read the ‘The League of Red-Headed Men’? It’s always been my favorite Sherlock Holmes story. The master of observation and deduction foils at early attempt at Gingerism mounted by London’s criminal underground.

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