If I call you a cunt, you mustn't get upset, because although you might see the word 'cunt' as offensive and unpleasant, particularly when directed towards you, you're not allowed to be upset by it. All right? Glad we've cleared that one up.
I feel a bit sorry for lantern-faced idiot Anton Du Beke after his Strictly stupid slip-up, referring to a mixed-race contestant as a 'Paki' because she'd had a spray tan. I say 'sorry' but it's the kind of pity you reserve for idiots who don't understand the offensiveness of what they say; you know, when your gran chirpily comes out with all kinds of barbaric nuts when you pop round for a sherry at Christmas. And I suppose there's a sense in which some people grew up in another time, in a very different world - before PC went mad, as the narrative goes - without kids from ethnic minorities in their school classes, without really mixing much at work and so on, so they've always seen people from other racial backgrounds as 'the other'. I'm sure he didn't mean anything bad by it, but that doesn't really excuse saying stuff like that.
That said, calling someone that word is right out of order nowadays. There's no possible justification for it.
To me it's the same kind of offence as was committed by Ron Atkinson when he used the N-word, or Carol Thatcher when she compared a Jo-Wilfried Tsonga with a golliwog. And both of them got kicked into touch, pretty correctly in my opinion. I suppose the only thing keeping Du Beke clinging on by his stupid fingernails is the fact he's apologised profusely and the subject of his dumbness has forgiven him for being such a complete and utter twat. But even so.
What amuses me is that when these subjects come up you encounter a level of hostility from people who go all out to defend this kind of unpleasantness as 'banter', even going so far as to claim that the words aren't really offensive. Dealing with these fuckwits is like learning chess openings; you can predict what they're going to say and you just have to learn the way around their stupidity. It's like the arguments you have to painfully trundle through when some berk is determined to call the BNP 'left-wing' - it's annoying, but you have to go through it step by step in crayon in order to make your point.
Now, I'm aware of the law that correctly states that anyone who ever tries to bring up a dictionary definition in an argument, particularly on the internet, automatically loses the argument. So I won't do that. But I'm aware of these things, which are occasionally used to claim that 'Paki' isn't offensive: 1) That it translates as 'pure'; 2) That in some countries, such as Australia, it's not used as a racial slur and can even be found in newspaper headlines; and, most prominently, 3) it's just the first four letters of a country, innit? It's just the same as 'Brit' but no-one ever gets offended by that! There's also 4) used by right-wing bloggers who needn't get the attention, because they're fuckwits but you know who I mean, that south Asian people use nasty words against white people! See?! That means everyone can use racist terms against everyone else, doesn't it?
And the answers are as follows. Regardless of 1) and 2), in this country it's used as a racial slur to apply to all south Asian people. To imagine otherwise is either to be dumb beyond belief or to attempt racist sophistry. Also, there's the more crucial point of hegemony (now there's a word I never thought I'd use outside of university) and minority. When you are in the minority, words used to describe you are used to single you out and discriminate against you.
The point about 'Paki' and 'Brit' is amazing to have to argue against, but you'll be amazed how many times you see it pop up. People argue it like this: I don't mean any offence, so you can't take any. I'm just using the first four letters of a country so that can't be wrong. Wrong! Of course it's wrong, especially when it's used to refer to all south Asian people rather than Pakistanis in particular; and even then, it's the historical use of the word, the way it's been imbued with a derogatory and unsavoury sense down the years, which make it offensive to others. You can't just tell other people not to be offended, like in my first paragraph. It doesn't work that way. No point in pretending you're not trying to be offensive, because generally people are; they aim to confuse others with the 'PC Brigade' tag to attempt to have their racism but be able to simultaneously claim they're not being racist.
And the final argument is again a fairly dumb one, but used to try and muddy the waters over these matters, to claim that there's no such thing as PC because all races are racist and therefore there's no point in white people not being racist, because everyone else is. There's some truth in that, of course, but only some truth. Racism is still a bad thing, and particularly when practised by the people who are in the majority because there's an implicit threat. If someone calls me a derogatory racial name when I'm surrounded by other people like me, that's possibly not threatening: if I'm the only person of my race surrounded by people of another race, then that is, and I'd feel threatened. Wouldn't you? Or would you rather laugh it off? If someone calls me a derogatory term based on my race, I'd be pissed off with them. I wouldn't give a shit if they then went on to explain it wasn't really offensive because they said so, or that people like me made racial comments so therefore I couldn't be upset. I'd think that person was an arsehole.
You'll see from the unmoderated comments on the Mail's story (top) that a couple of people have attempted the classic defences, whereas others are pretty annoyed, and one MT Hatcher claims there's no place for uncivilised language like that (or indeed people's daughters calling mixed-race tennis players golliwogs, I'd imagine). It's rubbish, but it's worth pointing out why. It's not the PC Brigade in their scary diversity van coming to upset us all for opening our mouths; it's just a fucking stupid thing to use racial slurs nowadays. It's stupid, it's ignorant, it's unpleasant and yes, he didn't do it on the telly and yes people are entitled to a private life, but the same principles apply as did to Carol Thatcher - if you're a public figure there's a chance the stuff you say will come out, so you'd better be ready to defend everything you say. Don't like that? Then don't be paid a bloody king's ransom for farting around on a dancefloor every Saturday night.
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Hello. I'm a Bristol-based writer and soon-to-be-redundant journalist. You can read more about me and the Enemies site here, or follow me on Twitter. Email me if you like - antonvowl at live dot co dot uk
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