That this was essentially a non-story can be gauged by the reaction of the Guardian, a newspaper that is usually quick to pounce on the politically incorrect. It printed the joke in full:
NASA decides that it will finally send a man up in a capsule after sending only monkeys on earlier missions. It fires the man and the monkey into space.Yes, I know, it isn’t a particularly funny joke, but apparently Townsend wasn’t offended. In fact, he saw it as a compliment that the manager thought it important that he got the ball as often as possible.
The intercom crackles: ‘Monkey, fire the retros.’ A little later: ‘Monkey, check the solid fuel supply.’ Later still: ‘Monkey, check the life support systems for the man.’
The astronaut takes umbrage and radios NASA: ‘When do I get to do something?’ NASA replies: ‘In 15 minutes, feed the monkey.’
The problem is that for some people, mentioning black people and monkeys in the same sentence is ipso facto a racial slur. However, after talking to all members of the England team, the Football Association (FA), Hodgson’s employer, decided that no action need be taken. The matter was, effectively, closed.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t good enough for Peter Herbert, head of the Society of Black Lawyers, who sent a four-page letter of complaint to the FA demanding that Hodgson be made to attend a ‘race appreciation’ training course and stating that the FA was wrong to declare the matter closed.
It should not escape notice that in order to be a member of Mr Herbert’s organization, it is necessary not only to be a lawyer but also to be black. Imagine the outcry if a similar organization were to be set up with membership restricted to white people. Mr Herbert needs to shut up. He should remember that you don’t have to be white to be a racist.