Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Nasty names

Black bastards... gingers... monkeys... it must be another post about offensive language and race.

There’s been another flurry of media interest in racist language over the last week with a senior Conservative Party MP resigning over his use of the term “black bastard” while talking about racism in the army, the current Miss Scotland receiving criticism for calling Samantha Mumba (remember her?) a monkey, and lots of ginger people complaining to Metro about the abuse they receive (no link – check the tube train floor).

There’s not much more to say about this sort of thing, apart from how it’s always useful to see what media commentators have to add to the debate, and in this instance Nirpal Dhaliwal talks about how his own dad served in the British Army and was subjected to racist abuse, but how he coped, dealt with it and eventually thrived. Worth a read, and the comments posted afterwards have sparked heated debates too.

My dad came to Britain, from India, as a nine-year-old. Aged 17, he joined the Gloucestershire Regiment in 1967. Having left school at 15 with no qualifications, the army was his only way to escape the factory work that everyone else he grew up with was destined for. Only 5ft 6ins tall, he was a slightly built Asian lad who wanted to see something of the world.

He'd been the only Asian child at his school and had suffered racial abuse and beatings. He now entered the hyper-macho arena of the army in which his colour made him stick out like a sore thumb. Coming from London made him even more of an oddity. When he first joined the West Country regiment, other soldiers would appear at his billet to gawp at the brown-skinned boy who spoke with a cockney accent. But people's responses weren't always so benign. The word 'Paki' wasn't then a common part of racist parlance, so the bullies used the words 'wog', 'nigger' and 'coon' to his face instead. He shared a room with one who habitually called him a 'black enamelled bastard'. He was also attacked. One long-serving soldier, a heavyweight boxer several years older than him, picked a fight with him in a pub, spuriously accusing my dad of badmouthing him behind his back. He took my father outside, shouted the routine insult of 'You black bastard!' and butted him.


Useful for:
ENA1 - Language & Representation
ENA5 - Language Change

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