Shoot the Messenger
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Shoot The Messenger was a feature length drama commissioned by the BBC under the title Fuck Black People.  It has received a mixed response from the African community and has been dubbed by one commentator, “One of the most sophisticated racist films in the corporation’s history.”  It was broadcast on the 30th August on BBC2.

The BBC has commissioned such programmes as: Baby Father, The Crouches, The Trouble With Black Men and now, Shoot The Messenger.  Is this what the BBC means when it boasts of “diversity”?  Would the BBC have even considered commissioning programmes under the title Fuck White People or The Trouble With White Men?

The first two letters on this page were correspondences written by the Editor of Rice N Peas to the BBC. We are unable to publish their response due to confidentiality laws.  The following two letters are just some of the responses we received from our readers, whose opinions we asked for via our mailing list after the programme aired.

Dear BBC,

I'm in the middle of watching Shoot The Messenger.  The programme is seriously disturbing; there is absolutely no substance to it whatsoever.

I am disgusted with the BBC, not just for airing such trash but for constantly commissioning this sort of crap. This sort of nonsense may be appealing to white people and those black writers who feel they need to assassinate their community to get commissioned, but it really fails on all levels.

It really makes it clear to me what those people who sit down and commission these sort of things really think. My opinion of Shoot The Messenger is: “Fuck White People.”

Toyin (Ligali) was totally on point when he trashed the programme and those who attempted to defend such stereotypically racist nonsense. The BBC must have been falling over themselves when they found yet another black, opportunistic fool, willing to put their name to such rubbish. The African community is all too aware of the type of people the BBC wish to commission.

Shame on the BBC.  I have lost any remnants of respect I may have had for the channel.

Ishmahil Blagrove, Jr.

Dear BBC,

I certainly believe that as a community there are various issues that should be debated; I am not shying away from a debate. However, I fail to see how that programme can spark debate around the topics the author "attempted" to highlight.

As with everything, there is always a broad spectrum of opinion. If I suggested that all white people are wicked, evil, racists, I am sure there would be a broad spectrum of opinion, regardless of how accurate or true my assertions might be. This is not what we are discussing here. There was no debate in the film; it was a monologue attack against the community, without any balance.

The writer clearly has issues with herself and the black community, another David Mathews. A pattern is clearly beginning to emerge in regards to the type of characters who are commissioned by the BBC. I have no problems with debate or exposing a few home truths. This programme did neither.

In reference to my "Fuck White People," it appears that the BBC has no problems in regards to commissioning a programme born as "Fuck Black People," so "Fuck White People" too.

You mention the black director, producer, writer; please don't throw that at me.  I expect better. In my short escapade in film I have only ever bumped into out-of-work black producers, writers and directors all willing to sacrifice accuracy and integrity in the hope of a commission.

No doubt people may have varying opinions in regards to the film’s content. Let's see how well the writer and the BBC weather the storm that is sure to come.

I have no problem with sticking my neck out and criticising my community when necessary, but I also know when to get in the trenches and defend the community against a racist attack perpetrated by an ignorant white "liberal" media and a disturbed black writer who is simply trying to get along.

You may not see anything in it, but I really don't expect you to. The real issue is, why are these sorts of programmes commissioned when other more worthy and intelligent stories are sidelined? This film may even win awards: awards judged by white people. No doubt, there will be a queue of other black writers who shall learn the formula of David Mathews and Sharon Foster who spew out the stereotypical notions of the mainstream.

Ishmahil Blagrove, Jr.

Shoot the Messenger

Dear RNP,

In regards to the BBC programme shown last month, Shoot The Messenger. As a white, Irish woman, I feel a certain hesitancy to comment on a programme that wholly focused on issues of "blackness," as many would proclaim me unqualified to do so. Nonetheless, I feel driven to share my comments in order to ascertain if my instincts about the piece were credible.

I found "Shoot The Messenger" shocking, and deeply uncomfortable to watch. The protagonist’s deep self-hate and hatred for his race was so blatant, unmeasured and unbalanced. By unbalanced, I mean that most of the characters depicted almost every given negative stereotype and thereby almost gave credibility to his stance. I too could write a story about Irish people being stupid, lazy, violent drunks and then pad the story out with characters who portray those characteristics but that would not be REAL.

I wondered if other white viewers were wondering "is this how black people really are behind closed doors?" Of course, I understand that the black community would want a platform of which to discuss the issues brought up in the film; however I think the lopsided format only served to lend credence to racism itself.

Tara, London


Dear RNP,

I was transfixed by Shoot the Messenger.  First of all, well done Sharon Foster for an enthralling 90 mins of drama, packing in a whole heap of issues! I wasn’t aware of the negative reviews that visited the drama before it was aired. Well done in having the courage of your convictions and putting it out there.

Caricatures of ourselves? A painful reminder of what we can be to one another? A people full of self loathing? A people cursed?

Do I believe any of that? No! Hell no! Doesn’t such reductive diatrite serve to keep us un-achieving, negative and hating each other? But hey, aren’t these forces in play in the way we relate to one another as black people?

If this film gets us to stand back, have a think, reconnect more meaningfully with one another, then good. If it serves to reinforce other people’s negative stereotypes of us, us of ourselves, then it does that as well. The viewer, whoever they are, will take what they will.

I put my hand up. For me, the message was personal. Much like our protagonist, I too, have suffered at the hands of black people when I had whole-heartedly believed I was there for the betterment of community.

Ros in Bristol

P.S. For the record, I think we are many things as a people. We can focus on whatever we want to about ourselves, we have to learn to overcome our struggles with each other and outside of ourselves.