‘You Clap For Me Now’: the poem people aren’t willing to hear

Denying that racism exists, is just as bad as racism itself.

Photo credit: huffpostuk.

Many of you would’ve seen the poem, penned by Darren James Smith, directed by Sachini Imbuldeniya titled, ‘You Clap For Me Now’, posted by the guardian.

The poem celebrates all the NHS workers who have been risking their lives on the frontline, as well as brings home a strong anti-racist message about immigrants in the UK, who are often made out to be a hindrance on British society. ‘You Clap For Me Now’ subverts this worn-out narrative and emphasises how crucial the contribution of minorities have been to us as a nation in overcoming the coronavirus. 


View the poem here:

The poem speaks volumes; it’s to the point, it has a powerful message, and it’s relevant because even in this time of ‘solidarity’, discrimination and prejudice have not taken time off. I discussed these same issues in my last article, ‘The irony behind the PM’s support for the NHS’, and because the topic is not one people want to hear, ‘You Clap For Me Now’, has received some considerable backlash.

The video uploaded by the guardian on their YouTube channel has the comments disabled, and it’s fair to imagine it’s because of the comments the poem has got on other social media platforms, and how negative they have been. The minds behind the poem have been accused of causing a divide and pushing a left-wing political agenda that has no place in this situation. The poem may very well be political; whether that was the intent behind it or not, the content delivers a valid message. It just so happens that it’s one people are not willing to hear, and some of the comments do prove they are arguing against.

The Spectator tweeted:

“The ‘You Clap For Me Now’ poem, written by Darren James Smith, a content producer for Bridge Studio, is so atrocious that part of me wonders if it is all a wind-up, says Freddy Gray”

This tweet included a link to a less than complimentary article by journalist Freddy Gray, who is under the impression that the UK has a zero tolerance on racism. “But we all know that racism is about as socially acceptable as defecating in public.” To that Mr Gray, I say that’s your UK, but not the UK many have to live in.

Another twitter user said:

#YouClapForMeNow On Thursdays, at 8:00pm, I clap for all the Medical Staff in the #NHS, irrespective of their Race, Religion, Age, Skin Colour, Country of Origin or Gender. I suspect that the vast majority of people clapping do the same. NONE of us need trite BS like this.

To call the genuine, and well-founded concerns of a group of people ‘trite BS’, displays another level of ignorance. It would be perfectly fine to say such a remark if we lived in a country where we were all viewed equally, but we don’t.

To no surprise, one tweet, followed by a video, that has been getting a lot of traction is from none other than Katie Hopkins;

“A message for the makers of #YouClapForMeNow Where is the diversity when there are no white people at all? Clapping was for hope. You made it a thing of hate. #CoronaBollocks”

It can be assumed that Hopkins didn’t even watch the video because there are white people present. To turn this expression of emotion into something so ugly is something that we have grown to expect from Hopkins, whose reputation with this subject matter is less than satisfactory – to put it mildly. In the video that accompanied Hopkins tweet, it’s clear to see that she completely missed the point. Why do people like Hopkins think the best way to respond to claims of racism is to make yourself the victim? Hopkins has warped the sentiment of the poem into an attack on white people, which could not be further from its intent.

When you’re clapping for the NHS, you’re clapping for the NHS in its entirety: the nationals, the immigrants, the doctors, the cleaners. However, when immigrants are portrayed in a negative light in every other situation, the poem is merely a reminder that the immigrants fighting on the front line, are no different to the immigrants you were hoping to exile come Brexit before this pandemic started. Regardless of your reasons for voting for Brexit, the rhetoric was damaging. It promised to curb immigration, appealing to many Britons, which therein lies the problem, and need for such a reminder.

It’s ironic that none of these people who have expressed criticism see that their response only reiterates the importance of this poem. When you ignore racism exists, in the belief that you are remaining impartial or innocent in the spread of said racism, you’re a part of that problem.

The line;

“That thing you were afraid of

Something’s come from overseas

And taken your jobs.”

; is a direct stab at what immigrants are forced to hear from people who oppose their presence in our society. For the first time in our lifetime, even if it is to a small degree, we should be able to empathise and understand the plight of immigrants whose homelands have become inhospitable, and the need to seek refuge somewhere else. We’re lucky that we’ve only been confined to our homes because immigrants are living proof that the situation could’ve been a hell of a lot worse; as it is for our homeless community.

We use rhetoric that preaches togetherness and being united. Yet, people can’t even agree to acknowledge the mistreatment of the people who are working tirelessly to save your brother, sister, or grandma from this devastating virus. At the very least, people could use this poem as an opportunity to educate themselves; even if you don’t agree with the premise, you could use your intelligence and consideration to try and understand the need for it–  and a need there is.

I salute Smith and Imbuldeniya, but it’s such a shame that their efforts are wasted on a people that aren’t willing to acknowledge anything that challenges them to observe their past behaviour and see the need for serious modification.

Remember, stay home, protect the NHS, save lives.

Author: Sincerely, Saskia

I have a BA in Creative Writing and Journalism and an MA in Publishing. I'm a freelance contributor for VoiceMagUK, living in London, who writes about all aspects of our society from my own standpoint.

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