SRtRC talk with comedian, columnist and SRtRC Hall of Fame member, Ava Vidal
"I genuinely believe that Islamophobia is seen as more acceptable, more ‘committable’ than other forms of racism in today’s culture. I think that people who would baulk at the repeated use of racist language like the N-word and would publicly content that it is horrible or that they don’t like it, don’t regard Islamophobia in the same way."
Ava Vidal is a comedian, columnist and writer. She is a big supporter of Show Racism the Red Card, a member of the campaign’s Writers Against Racism and Stand Up Against Racism initiatives and a SRtRC Hall of Fame member.
Ava writes a regular column for The Telegraph which often examines issues of equality.
SRtRC were grateful for the opportunity to catch up with Ava and ask her in the first part of the interview about online racism.
Former professional footballer Stan Collymore received yet more racist abuse on Twitter recently. What is your view about racism on social media, the lack of accountability and the difficulties with police involvement?
"I don’t understand how the inconstancies between the responses from both the platforms and the police can be possible. Liam Stacey went to prison because of his actions (the 21 year old Swansea University student was convicted under the Racially Aggravated s4A Public order Act 1986 after using racist language after then Bolton Wanderers footballer Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch) – I don’t believe that the police or Twitter do enough, I don’t believe that they take it seriously enough."
You have suffered racism and abuse on Twitter yourself. Can you tell us a little bit about that and the impact that it had on you?
"I spoke about it at the Women of the World Festival in Southbank where we discussed digital bullying. I think that some people use these platforms to say things that they wouldn’t dare say to someone’s face. I am a little bit torn because in some sick way it is kind of a good thing because at least you get to show that some of these attitudes are still out there. Sometimes when you try to speak about racism people say ‘you’re imagining it’ or ‘it doesn’t happen anymore’ or ‘it has got a lot better’, but by doing things like retweeting the abuse that someone like Stan Collymore suffered, you can highlight that this stuff still happens in England in 2014."
You have also received abuse online for standing up against Islamophobia – what happened there?
"I wrote an article for the Telegraph discussing the issue of Islamophobia, and then subsequently I wrote a second article about people’s reaction to the original piece. I genuinely believe that Islamophobia is seen as more acceptable, more ‘committable’ than other forms of racism in today’s culture. I think that people who would baulk at the repeated use of racist language like the N-word and would publicly content that it is horrible or that they don’t like it, don’t regard Islamophobia in the same way.
"I think that it is ‘open season’ on Muslims in this current climate that we have because the press and the media present us with negative depictions of Muslim people everyday, which makes people think that it is ok because Muslims are seen as ‘scary’ or ‘threatening our way of life’. I think it says a lot about people that most Muslims who are abused or attacked are women; people don’t dare attack the guys, they don’t dare attack someone who is likely to fight back. All of the things that they are saying that hate Islam for; one of the most common being their apparent mistreatment of women does not manifest itself – they clearly aren’t bothered about ‘the mistreatment of women under Islam’ because they are attacking these same women."
Read part two of SRtRC's interview with Ava tomorrow.
Ava will be part of the latest Stand Up Against Racism event on September 11th