Since the publication of the article “Words have meaning”, Eamonn Holmes, the presenter of the ITV show This Morning, has issued an apology to its viewers for the use of the word “uppity”, citing his ignorance of the meaning of the word and its racist connotation. I do not know about you but I am not buying it.
Let’s take a slight detour for some background. My husband has a position in the UN, in media, that involves training media personnel/journalists on word choice in their reportage, especially in a cultural context. This is important in conflict-stricken countries where the use of words and knowledge of the contextual import are crucial to journalists when filing their reports. Careless use of words can spell danger to the journalists and also for the subject(s) of their reporting. The journalists were trained to choose their words very carefully lest their word choice add fuel to the proverbial fire, instead of tempering an already volatile and dangerous situation. Or even worse, starting a fire where non existed. I imagine this concept is not foreign to any entity that has a vested interest in promoting relationships.
I cite this example to emphasise the importance of cultural competence in reporting. Afterall, apart from visual images, all the reader /audience has to go by are the words the reporter/presenter uses to paint a picture or tell a story. Based on this, the audience will appraise the situation or subject and form an impression. This is why the British media’s continual use of certain trigger words in their headlines when reporting about the Duchess of Sussex is problematic. They have used words which, over a long period of time, have turned sections of the British public against the Duchess of Sussex, but when you ask these same people, exactly what it is that they do not like about the Duchess, they have nothing concrete to offer but regurgitate the words they have been fed by the media.
A few centuries ago your word, followed by a handshake, was a binding contract. Even now, any person of integrity, who wishes to enjoy the public trust understands that their word must count for something. For a veteran presenter like Eamonn Holmes who has been at this for forty years now and is somewhat of a respected household name in the United Kingdom, to use the word uppity to describe the only non-white member of the royal family is dangerous and an utter failure of professionalism, even by the standards of his “apology”.
The article states:
“Debating an incident at Wimbledon, in which attempts had been made to stop tennis fans photographing the Duchess of Sussex, Holmes had used the term to “describe what he interpreted as arrogance”, according to Ade Rawcliffe, ITV’s Head of Diversity.
Holmes had said: “If you have an uppity attitude, you’re only through the door two minutes and suddenly you’re sitting at Wimbledon and your royal protection are saying, ‘No photographs, no photographs!”
The article states under the heading “Unaware of history” that “We are not saying that ignorance is in any way a defence, he was using the term to describe what he interpreted as arrogance.”
The dictionary definition of the word arrogant is as follows:
having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities.
“he’s arrogant and opinionated”
Similar: haughty, conceited, hubristic, self-important, opinionated
I call BS! For those of us who have seen the video of the exchange between Eamonn Holmes, his co-host and blogger Elaine Lui, his body language failed to disguise the contempt he had for the Duchess. A few points:
- Note the use of phrase, “ you’re only through the door two minutes”. Even though the only criteria for becoming a member of the royal family, save birth, is marriage by which Duchess Meghan legitimately became a royal spouse and senior member of the royal family(much like her cohorts), Eamon Holmes’ use of the phase implies that he does not consider the Duchess of Sussex to be worthy of the respect, deference and consideration accorded the other royal spouses by virtue of their status. At least not yet, if it were up to him. Is there a waiting period for full maturation of royal status at which time any request for privacy and respect will not be viewed by him as acting above one’s station ?
- The veracity of the Wimbledon story is still in question for several reasons; (a)Sally Jones (the reporter who alleged she was told not to take pictures of the duchess) was not pictured anywhere in the Duchess’ vicinity at the tennis match, (b)Sally Jones altered her account of events at least twice, (c)the only individual who was pictured being admonished by the royal protection officers was in very close proximity to Duchess Meghan and a male who is not Sally Jones, (d) several press pictures &video of the Duchess at said tennis match exist, and privately owned ones can be found on individual IG accounts and none captured this incident, (e) the Duchess was pictured speaking to a young chap while the people around were taking pictures on their phones (f) As much as the Duchess was publicly vilified for the “reported” incident, Sally Jones hasn’t once publicly had to answer simple questions about the veracity of her story from so-called ‘journalists’. What are the odds that there are pictures of all these different scenarios except the one that “ supposedly happened”? Give me a break!
- According to Eamonn Holmes, the Duchess’ RPO redirecting a man away from her personal space is arrogance on the Duchess’ part. Her security personnel whose job it is to ensure her absolute safety doing just that, and whose action on the day were not different from what has previously occurred for other royals. Arrogant. For her to be treated with a modicum of respect for her personal space, which we all expect by the way and associate its intrusion with rudeness, Eamonn Holmes thought that Duchess Meghan was “having or revealing an exaggerated sense of her own importance or abilities”. Why in the world would that be ?
- Also note that the discussion was about Duchess Meghan being unfairly singularly criticized for the couples’ decisions, a point that Ms. Lui questioned. Eamonn’s justification for that was to invoke the still questionable Wimbledon story. Completely unrelated. Again, Eamonn’s eagerness to excuse the Duchess’s being wrongly blamed for joint decisions of a unit, of which one is a born royal, for any tangential reason, is emblematic of the British media’s general posture towards the Duchess of Sussex. They rarely give her the benefit of the doubt. It is frankly puzzling for a woman who is a known hardworking high achiever, whose passions are known or at least widely written about, and of whom first person testimonials( past and present) by people who have no agenda are nothing but stellar.
I applaud the viewers who lodged complaints to ITV network, which brought about this so-called apology. However, this qualified apology on behalf of Eamonn Holmes just does not cut it. Actually his “arrogant” excuse/ explanation exposes the problem at heart. It shows no remorse for the use of a racist descriptor for a highly placed woman of colour and in a way doubles down. Mr. Holmes should have just issued an unreserved apology and called it a day. Eamonn Holmes and the rest of them are free to dislike the Duchess of Sussex for any reason including prejudice. What they are not at liberty to do, is to shape their audiences’ perception based on their personal biases.
The fact that so-called journalists are ill-prepared to intelligently cover the only non-white member of the royal family is an indictment of the “journalists” and their parent networks or organizations. It is a new day and the way I see it, these people who bring us the news are not ready for primetime. The time for token diversity in British media organisations is past; It’s way overdue for real diversity training in those media houses and more importantly, meaningful diversification of their operations across the board. They have gotten away with this bad behaviour for far too long( think pro-athletes etc). Unless they want to continually dwell in the gutters of gossipy tabloid nonsense, a high standard of reporting is required. Without meaningful acclimation, they are not worthy of the respect and sway that some freely accord.