Man fined for black and white minstrel performance ‘didn’t know it was racist’

A 62-year-old fined for dressing up as a black and white minstrel at a works party “didn’t know it was racist”, a court has heard.

Brian Davies was ordered to pay a total of £450 earlier this year for racially harassing a black colleague after blacking up his face and performing a “racist” song and dance routine at their Christmas do.

On Friday the maintenance engineer appeared in court to appeal against his conviction of causing racially aggravated harassment, alarm or distress to head chef Loretta Doyley, denying he knew the television show from which his routine derived from was today seen as “derogatory and demeaning to black people”.

Cardiff Crown Court was shown mobile footage from the incident on December 20 last year at the city’s Cooper’s Carvery, with Davies wearing black face paint, white paint around his eyes and mouth, a straw boater hat, and swinging around a cane while dancing and singing the song Mammy in the direction of Mrs Doyley.

Prosecutor Suzanne Payne said to Davies: “You could see as you were dancing and singing around her she was upset by you.

“You knew by dancing around singing that you were being abusive to her.

Brian Davies court case
Brian Davies court case

“And you should’ve been aware it would be. Because it’s insulting and humiliating what you did.

“And that was your intention.”

Davies said he had a prior conversation with colleagues including Mrs Doyley about The Black And White Minstrel Show, which appeared on British television in the 1960s and 1970s, which gave him the idea for his stunt.

He told the court: “It didn’t even cross my mind. I didn’t even think of anything racist.

“Just thought I was dressing up as something that used to be on telly on a Sunday night.”

Ms Payne told Davies the show had not appeared on British television for years as it was deemed “derogatory and demeaning to black people”.

Davies said: “I didn’t know it was racist.”

Mrs Doyley, who worked with Davies at Ty Catrin, a facility run by mental healthcare provider The Priory Group in Cardiff, said Davies had repeatedly asked her to go the Christmas do after she had initially declined.

She told the court: “I felt humiliated and wanted the floor to open up and swallow me.

“I felt because everyone was laughing I went into shock and I felt myself laughing as well, not because it was funny, I just didn’t know how else to act.”

Tom Roberts, for Davies, told the court it needed to be sure his client’s behaviour was “intentionally” abusive towards Mrs Doyley.

He said: “It was clearly ill judged. He accepts he was “stupid and naive”.

“But that does not equate to him using abusive behaviour towards Mrs Doyley. It is of course not politically correct behaviour.

He added: “At most this was an ill judged and disreputable incident. Did he display hostility? I would say he didn’t.”

Judge David Wynn Morgan and Justices Robin Coombes and Sharon Winter adjourned the appeal until next Thursday when they will make their decision on its outcome.