Tuesday, 1 February 2011

The Watermelon Slur: Why it says more about the accuser than the accused

If you haven't heard the term already, a Watermelon in this context, is someone who is apparently 'Green on the outside, Socialist (and therefore red) on the inside'. It's a lazy and ineffective attack for a number of reasons. Firstly, those who throw the term about probably think they are being oh so clever, when it is in fact nothing more than a bastardization of another tasteless term, the 'Coconut', used to question the essential 'blackness' of some people (in pop culture terms, the likes of Tom from The Boondocks and Carlton Banks from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air were often accused of a 'black on the outside, white on the inside' characteristics).

Secondly, while the 'Coconut'  is rightly offensive, its lame cousin the Watermelon is rather more of a venomless snake, given that for most Greens the concept is neither new, surprising or by any means an insult. The English Green Party leader Caroline Lucas, when questioned about her Watermelon credentials on last weeks BBC Politics Show, simply replied 'well I don't have a problem with that' and I doubt many others would argue.

Being Green is about so much more than treehugging, it's about concern for our social environment too. This does not make us afraid of progress or change, but it does make us concerned that when this change comes about that it not done at the cost of the vulnerable. Want to cut our over reliance on the public sector Mr Wilson and Cameron? Go ahead, I'm sure we'd all welcome alternatives, but who exactly will pick up the slack? Private industry? What private industry? Only an idiot cuts the rope before the safety net has arrived. As a member of the Green Party I support the Green New Deal and I feel that investment in this area is one of the only workable alternative economic solutions. Once in place, then, and only then, can we be confident that our workforce has alternatives. Is this socialist? Perhaps, and I don't have a problem with that.

Finally, the idea that one should be embarrassed, ashamed or in any way hide one's socialist or leftist tendencies, reveals far more about the accuser them than it does us. Clearly, like the Tea Party protesters in the US, these people still live in their own bubble where they see a social outlook and concern akin to to the loopy left, communism or erm, Nazism. This is certainly not the case. If you can't admit to any social concern, and that is concern for the weakest and poorest people in your country and the world over, then you have no business in politics... well you do, just join the Condems, DUP or the Republican Party.
I was out protesting on Saturday in Belfast against the EMA cuts and compared to previous efforts the turn out wasn't great, especially given that the university fees issue in Northern Ireland is still very much up for debate. I imagine that in part this was due to the mass student exodus that takes place at weekends in Belfast, but also the unfortunate reputation that these protests have gained following violence in England. However, another protester from People Before Profit, summarized that in the protest movement is in danger of forever being labelled as a socialist niche and that success will only come when the notion that people can change their society for the better by speaking out against the unwise decisions of their officials, appeals to a broader range of people. As a socialist himself, he understood the need for support from more middle/central political groups, who have voiced disapproval of current government actions, but refuse to get their hands dirty. I think there's a lot to be said for this, as it seems in the face of flying Watermelons, that some people are still very much afraid of reds under the beds.


  1. Ha! Great Blog! I highlighted the watermelon comment you refer to here on Caroline Lucas's facebook page and thought I'd write an article! But you got in first, and articulated much better that I!

  2. There will be a UK wide protest in April and the turnout in Belfast will be a lot bigger than this one. The Students Union and NUS/USI will be invloved in the organisation and will mobilise far greater numbers.


    A fellow watermelon.

  3. If I'm ever called a watermelon, I'll just say I'm not a socialist, I'm a slowcialist, and proud of it!

  4. Much better turn out at today's Belfast protest and well done to all those who made some noise in London. 400,000 voices will not go gentle into that good night.