The Apprentice has hit the headlines this morning after it transpired that Lottie Lion told a fellow contestant to ‘shut up Gandhi’, amid other aggressive comments.
The comment was allegedly made in a WhatsApp group full of the contestants. Lion reportedly told Lubna Farhan – whose parents are Pakistani – to ‘shut up Gandhi'.
These comments are presented out of context, and Lottie has claimed that the Gandhi comment was a response to a fellow member of the group quoting Gandhi, but it still doesn’t sound great. Souleyman Bah, who was a contestant and therefore presumably a member of the WhatsApp group, posted on Twitter saying: ‘Of course it’s true, I watched as you posted that message and felt so disgusted at how you could be so blatantly racist towards Lubna and also the comment about black people is subtlety showing off that you’re so posh you don’t mix with people like us (And no I wasn’t the source). [sic]’
The BBC has condemned Lottie’s comments, saying, ‘The production company have looked into the issue and reported back, Lottie has been informed that her comments were wholly unacceptable and is in no doubt about our view on this.’
Lottie’s comments aren’t the only thing that point to a race problem, though.
After Lubna was sent home last week, viewers started to notice something of a common theme among the people who’d been sent home, namely that none of them were white. Concerns were raised after the second episode, and continued into the third. When a fourth PoC was fired this week, it really did start to look like a pattern.
The first person to get the axe was Shahin Hassan, then Kenna Ngona. The third candidate to be fired was Souleyman Bah who was also the show's first and only-ever candidate to have a known disability. He spoke publicly about his disappointment that he didn’t go further in the process. Then, last week Lubna got the chop, meaning that no white candidates have yet been been fired.
Comments online have begun to stack up, suggesting that the firing process might be informed by unconscious bias from Lord Sugar. Unconscious bias is when a person makes judgements about a person based on their subconscious preferences. It’s common for it to mean that we favour people who we perceive to be like us, especially of the same race as us. The OED defines it as ‘Any distortion of experience by an observer or reporter of which they are not themselves aware. This includes the processes of unintentional selectivity and transformation involved in perception.'
Lord Sugar has previously been accused of racism, most famously last year when he shared a meme of the Senegal football team, made to look as if they’re selling sunglasses. He wrote ‘I recognise some of these guys from the beach in Marbella. Multi taking useful chaps.' The BBC condemned the tweet as seriously misjudged (bit of an on-going theme there).
By its nature, unconscious bias is hard to prove and complicated to tackle. Many organisations offer unconscious bias training where employees are given tactics to overcome their subconscious preferences and become fairer, more inclusive managers. Perhaps the BBC might want to consider sending Lord Sugar on one of them.
Views have also pointed out that the BBC has a duty of care to the people it places on reality TV shows. Casting a diverse array of candidates is a good start, but it doesn't help anyone to provide a line-up filled with people from different ethnicities if everyone who isn't white is going to be stripped out of the process before the halfway point.