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Don't touch my hair, don't even talk about it!
Click here to watch (Image source: Emma Dabiri)

Not long ago, a little video clip was making the rounds on social media. Eamonn Holmes -veteran presenter of This Morning fame - was live on ITV, and in discussions with Dr Zoe Williams, he concluded that her hair reminded him of an alpaca which he just wanted to pet.

Holmes has since tweeted an apology stating, “if my attempt at being humorous with my friend @DrZoeWilliams was misjudged, I am mortified and humbly apologise to anyone who was offended.”

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Was this an apology at all?  

First, he falls on the old “my black friend and I are comfortable enough, so I did not cause offense to them” trick, then he hurtles full throttle into the “if you took offence it was actually your problem” while swinging by the “you absolutely misjudged my intention, so really this is ‘you’ problem not a ‘me’ problem” excuse.  

He brought the whole ignoramus playbook out and scored full points.

Eamonn Holmes OBE is probably at home wondering what all the hoopla is about as he currently faces a backlash and calls to be sacked over his racist comments.

The facts are he should never have been allowed to feel comfortable to air such a derogatory, insulting and demeaning views in front of his one million viewers. Some will say he is a product of his time. At 61 years old he should be excused if the changing times have moved on too fast for him to catch up.  

If that is the case, he has no business having access to such a huge platform where he is culpable in normalising belittling opinions in the form of humour and “just a bit of fun”.

The comments section has been full of suggestions that the backlash has been some sort of overreaction, after all “it is only hair”.

Only if you have been living under a rock would you attempt to suggest that anyone should be unaware of the political minefield that is black people and our hair. It starts with being made to feel that the hair that grows naturally out of our heads is ugly, wrong or inferior and has been known to culminate in outright persecution and discrimination in the workplace or schools over how black people chose to style their hair.

The simple answer to that is – No!! It’s not ONLY hair and nobody can pretend that we don’t know what is at stake here.

Another interesting and notable vein of conversation that has also been expressed is if it was such a rude comment why did Dr Williams chose to laugh it off?

I must admit that even while watching the video something inside me stirred in sympathy and exhaustion. I challenge you to find a black person that has not been caught out in this very situation.  

Minding your business, thoughts on the job at hand and out of nowhere some entitled person makes a derogatory comment.  How to respond?  If she had challenged him, I predict that today the tabloids would be discussing her lack of professionalism, labelled her an angry black woman and all the sympathy would be for poor Eamonn who had “meant nothing by it”.

The tragedy is we have been laughing off these insults for generations because to escalate things would usually never result in positive resolution.  

Dr Williams has yet to formally respond, and I don’t know that she needs to. What will be interesting is how ITV take care of this situation.

In the meantime, if you don’t see the problem, I would venture to say you are a part of it.  

Until next time,

Odunayo Ogunbiyi