Racism on the set of Big Brother in Britain: How Jane Goody’s behaviour towards Shilpa Shetty exposes hidden prejudice in our society

Jade Goody 

People are racist even if they don’t want to admit it.  Over the last week on Channel 4’s reality T.V. show Celebrity Big Brother contestant Jane Goody said several racist slurs towards fellow contestant Shilpa Shetty.

The result has impacted international relations between the two countries and shockingly exposed prejudice which exists in British society.   To me this happening which has engulfed the British and International press is a positive occurrence as it exposes racial bias which can often be overlooked or excused.   Goody’s derogatory comments included referring to Shetty as living “in the slums” “eating with her hands”, and giving her a nickname after a type of Indian food.  To me this is unacceptable and disgusting, but also all too common.  Yesterday, I read Goody’s official post-Big Brother paid interviews that was printed in the British Tabloid The News of The World http://www.newsoftheworld.co.uk/jade1.shtml.  Goody said she did not think that she was being racist and did not realize the negative impact her comments would have.   

Her reaction is typical of a person who is in denial of their bias attitude and does not want to acknowledge their own racism.  As a multi-cultural educator I know that the only way to stop racism is to confront it and to let the person saying it understand their comments are not acceptable.  In our current society this is very difficult to do.

 Would you tell your boss not to laugh at that joke?Would you tell your father’s friends that their attitude was not o.k.?If you heard a racist comment would you confront it or just let it slip by? 

Racism is something I am all too familiar with.  My husband is Indian and I am very aware of how people harbor a hidden racist attitude, only to be confronted by it, and protest.  A clear memory I have goes back to 1999 when I was being driven to a concert in downtown
London with my cousin and her friend’s father.  This man was talking about British football and made the comment that white players were superior to black players.  I called him on it and was made to feel very embarrassed for my actions.  I had “put him on the spot” and “what I had said was not necessary”.  From that experience I was made to feel that the polite thing to do is just ignore racism instead of acknowledging it and letting it be known that it is not acceptable in our society.


Ask yourself, how many times have you heard people put down Muslims?  What about native Canadians?  These attitudes are despairingly common in Canadian society.  Yet we continually pat ourselves on the back for being “tolerant”. How many times have I heard acquaintances say to me “look at that pack of smelly Indians, oh sorry Joanna, you don’t mind?”  I have even heard teachers praise their classes because “there were not problems with minorities at that school”.  Moreover, I’ve often had people assume things about my husband based on their own prejudice instead of taking the time to get to know him as a person.   

Which is why I feel that the media fallout from Goody’s comments in Big Brother will be positive as her actions remind people that racism is not ok and has consequences.  Goody, who became famous five years ago as a contestant on Big Brother, has lost her celebrity career thanks to her attitude.  She went into the Big Brother house expecting to win, check out this article that praises her from the Daily telegraph www.telegraph.co.uk/…/2007/01/10/baarts10.xml, and is coming out of it as one of the most hated women in
Britain http://www.newsoftheworld.co.uk/jade1.shtml  

http://www.people.co.uk/news/tm_headline=jade–the-stink-of-hypocrisy&method=full&objectid=18508463&siteid=93463-name_page.html  Sometimes the little things in life make all the difference.  Quiet little racist comments promote hate.  Don’t be afraid to confront racist remarks.  If someone is defensive it is their problem not yours.  Learn from Goody’s mistakes and promote an open attitude towards all.


3 Responses to “Racism on the set of Big Brother in Britain: How Jane Goody’s behaviour towards Shilpa Shetty exposes hidden prejudice in our society”

  1. 1 globetrotteri
    January 25, 2007 at 10:20 am

    Well said Jo, and very thought provoking! In a way, I’m secretly a little glad that the media is going wild over this, because it puts ignorance and racism right out in the open again. The only way to put a stop to it is by confronting these issues head on.

  2. January 27, 2007 at 3:42 am

    My knowledge of this story is peripheral at best, so let that be my caveat…
    Is there any chance that the racist comments were staged to stimulate ratings? I am sure the show was not expecting to be dropped by one of their big sponsors, but it did boost their ratings enormously, which I understand were dwindling prior to the incident. Staged or not, racism should not be tolerated. But it does point to perhaps an even more appaling trend. Big Brother (and other shows like it) are the modern day coliseums, encouraging the public to revel in their baser instincts.
    “You’re fired!”–isn’t that really why people watch The Apprentice?

  3. 3 alec
    March 4, 2007 at 10:26 am


    I am an Indian. I didn’t know Indians are smelly. I like the english. I think they smell too. I don’t know. I think as humans we all smell. It has nothing to do with race. Some have strong body odours , some don’t. I mean individuals irrespective of their race. I live in India. I come across people who really smell and I come across people who smell really good. It has nothing to do with race. I like girls who don’t smell. I like the English I don’t think they are racist. I think Indians are racist too. all races are racist.

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