On air: When is a word racist?

harryOver the past two weeks of Gaza coverage, the use of language has been one of the hottest issues. When people come onto the radio and talk about ‘the Jews’, is it more derogatory than if they said ‘the Jewish people’?
Most people would say yes. The issue of what exactly is racist language has been thrown up again in Britain. Over the weekend, Prince Harry, the third in line to the British crown, apologised after a video was leaked in which he called an army comrade a ‘paki’ and said another comrade wearing a scarf on his head looked like a ‘raghead’. It’s sparked tremendous debate here in BritainIf I’m sitting opposite as Asian collegue here in Bush House and I shout out “hoi Paki!” the reaction would probably start with stunned silence and end with me leaving the BBC. Quite right too.

If I’m sitting opposite the same Asian collegue, and I’m Asian too, and we’re best mates, and I jokingly raise my voice and say “hoi Paki” would (or should) the reaction be different ?

Is it all about context?

But if context is important, is the key thing here the fact that ‘Paki’ is from a past time when that kind of language was usually associated with so much more: less opportunities for people of colour, violence (verbal and physical), and an assumption on all sides of the colour divide that some people of colour knew their place. They were demeaned and there would stay. And this columnist says it’s because of that history that it is never an acceptable term.

But the world has changed in many ways, in many places – or has it? One caller to our sister BBC Radio 5 Live network this morning said she, as as Asian woman, regularly feels threatened by this kind of language. But her brother who’s in Australia often experiences that kind treatment, but down-under it’s not said with the same edge, the same twist, as it is here in the UK, and so he doesn’t feel threatened – it’s more of a friendly term.

Are there some words that we should never use outright? Or some words that it’s okay to use if you’re from a particular background?

107 Responses to “On air: When is a word racist?”

  1. 1 Steve
    January 12, 2009 at 14:38

    I can see why “raghead” is offensive, but “paki”? Wow, that must mean I’m a racist if I’ve ever called someone an aussie or kiwi, or gasp, Canuck. I’ve been called “yank” before. I think this is the result of a double standard.

  2. 2 Steve
    January 12, 2009 at 14:41

    Also, I don’t think the actual word “the jews” is offensive, but if you see the point, the people that dislike Israel, are blaming all the Jews for the actions of Israel.

    I saw footage from protests around the world, and someo of the comments shouted, such as “Jews, go back to the ovens” are offensive, not because of the word but because of the genocidal wishes of the person saying it.

  3. 3 David C
    January 12, 2009 at 14:57

    I love that this program allows people to have their say. But can I make a suggestion to all of you out there:

    Just because you can say it, doesn’t mean you should.

    Please think about your words and how they could hurt others. Don’t use this blog (or any other) to put others down, but also think of how others could interpret what you are saying.

    Think love first for your fellow man.

  4. 4 Tony from Singapura
    January 12, 2009 at 14:58

    The loose use of slang across cultural boundaries is a very dangerous thing. Generaly people learn the hard way through experience. The young prince is probably a little inexperienced, however in his position I would have expected that he should have been coached a little on such matters.

    Anything you write into an email, any video you produce no matter how private you think it is, could be accidently or maliciously leaked to others who were not meant to hear/see it and this should always be in the back of your mind when communicating in these ways.

  5. 5 Peter in Portland, Oregon, USA
    January 12, 2009 at 15:02

    In military units, members frequently assign each other nicknames which, to outsiders, my sound derogatory, vulgar, racist, or even quite degrading. They are, however, considered more as terms of endearment by the members of that military unit. Such nicknaming represents “familiarity” and actually creates stronger relationships and generates strong bonds among the members. This is quite common practice in military units. It is similar to someone being named William, for example, but allowing those close to him to call him “Bill”.

    Words only become racist when the speaker holds malice when uttering the words. Listeners should listen for malice before assuming such.

  6. 6 John in Salem
    January 12, 2009 at 15:06

    I think that when someone uses a perjorative term to define themselves, even in private company with others of similar background, they lose legitimacy in claiming offense when the term is used by others of different background.
    You can’t have it both ways. Either a word is offensive to you or it isn’t.
    The term “Jew-ish” is ridiculous unless you’re using it to describe someone who has the characterisics of a Jew but is not one.

  7. 7 David C
    January 12, 2009 at 15:08

    How close can you get your face to a moving train before you lose your nose? Here’s a better question: how close SHOULD you get your face to a moving train at all?!?

    Rather than find an absolute limit to what is a racist remark, lets all do our best not to get anywhere near the limit. Respect others more than you respect yourself and I don’t think you will need to find the boundary.

  8. 8 Donnamarie in Switzerland
    January 12, 2009 at 15:14

    My brother’s Mexican wife calls him and his American family “gringos.” We call her and her family “beaners.” If Latinos unknown to me used the term “gringo”, I would feel offended, threatened or both. If unknown Anglos called my sister-in-law a “beaner”, she would feel offended, threatened or both.

    When we use the terms, they become terms of endearment that celebrate both our different origins and what brings us together.

    So, yes, context is very important. However, I would not dream of calling any of my black in-laws or mixed race blood relatives “niggers” under any circumstances. Context is important, but it isn’t everything.

  9. 9 Robert Macala
    January 12, 2009 at 15:15

    Racist terms are used in close company to reinforce group solidarity and unity. Racist terms become a problem when they are used in public.

    I’m sure Harry used the term “:pakI” and “raghead” as part of his normal conversation in his closed and selected circle. No one thought these words
    racist behind closed doors. Only when these words were publicly aired
    did they become the problem.

    Another characteristic of the use of these words, is the denial that these
    words are used behind closed doors. Being revealed as a “racist” by using
    these words is so declasse, so besmirching of ones social stature.

    Hypocrisy is the necessary glue that keeps society in tact. Racist terms
    will always be used to relieve frustration with a group perceived, either
    rightly or wrongly, to be somehow causing social and personal angst.

    Consider the recent Madoff scandal. How is Mr. Madoff referred to behind close doors. Just another Wall Street scoundrel? Oh, I don’t think so.

    Racist words are only racist when they are used publicly , sometimes in malice
    and sometimes as a slip of the tongue.

    The human condition is inherently
    frustrating and language is used to relieve that frustration. Of course, it
    never settles the issure, but hey that’s the human condition. We are living
    in the 21 Century and we are making slow, very slowly progress to understand
    the human condition.

  10. January 12, 2009 at 15:15

    Any abusive word is likely to cause offence. Words with racial connotations should be avoided publicly. It’s one thing calling someone affectionately “dirty” and it is another when the same word is used pejoratively.

    It’s hard to prevent people using racist language. At least it shouldn’t be used in the face of the person concerned or publicly, which is even much worse.

    Concerning Prince Harry’s apparently racist remarks about Muslims and the Arabs through his use of “raghead” , one wonders if he still has other racist terms for the Africans and the Jews.

    Whatever, racist language should be avoided. It’s a barrier to interracial relations and a continuation of the already existing racial hatred and discrimination.

  11. January 12, 2009 at 15:16

    This presupposes that ethnic groups have legitimacy. They don’t. Not a single one.

    We are all mixtures of different “races”. We are all mutts.

    Tribalism in the appropriate term for the formation of irrational self-serving groups. They paint themselves as “good” or more “authentic” but these are relative and loaded terms. No matter how harmless an ethnic group may claim to be, it is usually harmful to anyone outside of it.

  12. 12 Roy, Washington DC
    January 12, 2009 at 15:17

    A word is offensive when it is either likely to offend or when it is intended to offend. “Paki” is in somewhat of a gray area, since it’s just a shortening of the proper term, Pakistani. “Raghead”, on the other hand, is clearly racist because of how derogatory it is.

    It also depends on context. The N word, for instance, is almost invariably offensive when a Caucasian uses it to refer to a person of color, but people of color frequently use it among themselves in a friendly manner.

  13. 13 Ibrahim
    January 12, 2009 at 15:20

    I think it is more to do with the history of the word’s use rather than the word itself.
    Take the example of the Swastika. It’s original form is a symbol of good luck. But once it was adopted by the Nazis it became a symbol of racism. The same is true of words.
    If racists who abused and assaulted Asians yelled the words “Paki” as part of the abuse, then the word becomes associated with the abuse. It may take another generation until the connection between the word Paki and racist abuse is dissolved in this country.
    On the subject of Israel, I don’t think that anyone should be directing their anger towards Jews at all. Zionism and Judaism are two different things, some even argue that they are polar opposites. Several Jewish groups oppose Israel’s actions on Gaza. Every pro-Palestinian demonstration in London so far has had a signifcant Jewish presence voicing their opposition to Israel.

  14. January 12, 2009 at 15:37

    Sticks and stones will hurt my bones but names will never harm me… so the saying goes.
    What is the difference between calling someone a Paki and another a Brit, or someone a Turk and another a Yank?
    That was a question.

  15. 15 gary
    January 12, 2009 at 16:01

    Hereafter everyone must refer to me as “a US citizen of German, English, Irish, Dutch, and Native American ancestry,” or I shall be very offended.

  16. January 12, 2009 at 16:02

    Hi WHYSers!

    I have found that in the course of the last couple of weeks, I have had felt, on occassion, the need to be careful in terms of how I speak about the issue in Gaza. This is as it relates to characterising the air strikes whether as a ‘war’, or a ‘conflict’ or some other such word, for fear of alienating some people. While, that may seem like a small matter and even inconsequential in many instances, it speaks volumes to just how political the use of language is. As one who has been referred to here, in this very forum, in ways that I am sometimes less than comfortable with I completely understand the threatening nature of language.

    That being said, I think that all communication is contextual in many ways, even where the standard variant of a vocabulary is being used. In that regard, the meaning making process established between oneself and a community of speakers determine how a message is recieved. Some words have embedded within them a certain kind of historical baggage which makes their use especially political, particularly, where people are never always sure of intent. It is natural to feel defensive, therefore, when people refer to you as ‘you liberals’, or ‘the blacks’, or ‘you people’, or some such derogatory reference.

    This is not the same as saying that we are being ‘sensitive’ which is the next way of telling you to shut it. The master narrative, which as it name suggests, is used by those in authority – whether percieved or real, does have the power to define peoples’ realities in many ways. Which would suggest that greater care needs to be taken in terms of our public utterances, especially where one has a very powerful platform on which to do so and can influence the actions, thoughts and ideas, etc. of others.

  17. January 12, 2009 at 16:05

    A word is racist when:

    * the speaker is aware that the word in question is liable to be inflammatory, or that there is a context which when used could be insulting.

    * the user is aware of, but refuses to employ other less inflammatory words to say the same thing.

    * the user is aware of the impact his/her choice of words has had on the listener(s) but refuses to retract them and offer apologies.

    These are my thoughts.

  18. January 12, 2009 at 16:12

    Your initial example has a few holes. In the current Gaza situation, every pro-Hamas protest that’s referring to the Jews rather than Israel has already made an anti-semitic statement – for Jewish people living in London or New York or Paris have nothing to do with the defensive actions of the Israeli army and government. You’ll note that in the pro-Israel protests no one is referring to the Islamics, Arabs, or even Palestinians. Rather, they support Israel’s actions against Hamas and protest Hamas’s actions against Israeli civilians.

    The fact that news media and politicians would sit idly by while thousands of protesters demonize an entire people, especially one that is part of their citizens, is quite troubling. That Europe, with the history of the Holocaust would permit this, is terrifying. One might argue about free right of expression and protest. Yet, rights of free speech to not permit inciting others to criminal acts. Further, those protesting were protesting less than a year ago against this exact right when they found Danish cartoons insulting. How much more so to incite true genocide?

    On a side note, “Hey Jew” is indeed offensive, especially because the Jewish people were belittled for centuries being referred to as simply a thing rather than as a person (particularly throughout medieval and renaissance Europe).

    However, as several previous commentors mentioned, in the context of army comradeship, such nicknaming of group members is a normal practice. Similar practices are found in inter-city neighborhoods. This does not make it acceptable in polite society. Prince Harry should be given a break and permitted a moment of normal human transgression and comradeship.

    –Blogging at Mystical Paths – http://mysticalpaths.blogspot.com

  19. January 12, 2009 at 16:18

    Indeed, by ‘careful’ above, I am referring more to the official narrative used in the Western media, from which I receive most of my daily news/ information, regarding the Israel-Gaza war. This is not to say that we are not witnessing a very lopsided war, with Israel increasing looking like the villain, overpowering innocent civilians and committing what appears to be war crimes, also.

    Rather, it is to make the point that in the court of international public opinion where the war effort is also fought in the realm of ideas, one has to be especially careful about how language (further) politicises these events. In that regard, the young Prince’s remarks, coupled with his swastika armband before, do not do much to help pacify emotions in these very sensitive circumstances and times. This does not mean that his comments are, necessarilly, racist as much as they are those of the misguided elite who feel that they are, often, able to escape the harsh critique of public opinion because of their status in society. Paris Hylton and all the other Hollywood starletes who have gotten in trouble with the law prove this.

    They seem under the impression that their role(s) as public personalities make(s) them immune, in a way, to the sensitivities that go with the use of certain words and representations – almost as a slap in the face to those either without the equivalent power and or authority, or just plain, old ignorance. Either way, its en vogue to do silly things when you are rich and famous, Prince Harry’s comments included!

  20. 20 leti in palma
    January 12, 2009 at 16:22

    As a child with spanish and french parents growing up in england I quickly got used to being called a “dago” ,a “frog”, a frogdago, even “paki”,and “wog”.

    This might be excused by the age of the children using the terms, but I think it more likely that the english are intrinsically more racist than they are willing to admit.

    Yep, face up to it, the princelet calling his mate a paki wouldn’t shock your average brit, because he probably privately thinks of pakistanis (and indians and arabs etc etc) as pakis himself.

    But words are just sounds, and its really the TONE behind them which indicates the racism or not.

  21. January 12, 2009 at 16:26

    A word in itself is not racist. The meaning and the intent of the word can be racist. But to fully understand the intent you need to know the full context. When was it said, by whom to whom, how do they know each other etc?

    Regarding the use of “the Jews”, I don’t see any difference to saying the Brits. Many use it for simplicity (the Jewish people is more cumbersome to say) without any malice involved. Yes some do use it as an insult but in those cases you should take offensive at the message as a whole and not the individual choice of words.

    Regarding Harry. I think it is just another stupid mistake by a young lad under extreme pressure from the press. I don’t see there being any racism intended in his comments. Any offensive that it did cause should be dealt with between Harry, the other solider and the British Army. Only after should anybody else be involved in this case.

  22. 22 archibald in oregon
    January 12, 2009 at 16:47

    It is all in the inference………I have heard lots of people use the term “those people”, to describe of myriad ethnic groups. It is a way of not sounding racist, but the negativity comes through loud and clear, especially when it is preceded and/or followed by a qualifying, prejudiced story.
    The term “PC” (politically correct), has set forth a new standard for the avoidance of outward racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., but, it only veils the continued existence of said maladies, by redirecting focus to a new word, rather than a new attitude………….That said, I do think that people are way too sensitive about words and that regardless of the ethnic group you belong to, we are all still humans at the end of the day. Labels mean nothing unless we make them into something other than just words.

  23. 23 Tony from Singapura
    January 12, 2009 at 16:57

    In terms of using “The Jews” I would say that most people are largly ignorant of the history of the middle east conflict and are simply reacting to the images being presented in the media.

    I guess these guys might even be surprised to know that there are also Jewish people of Arab decent. That throws a spanner in the works now doesnt it.

    Most reports that I see and read in mainstream media are largely restricted to the immediate situation between Israel and Hamas with very little historical context being presented. Therefor I am not surprised by the general ignorance of most people on this subject.

    I would conceded however that the history is long and complex and a full understanding of the issues would require some significnat investment in time and effort.

  24. January 12, 2009 at 17:12

    @ archibald in oregon,

    But that is precisely the point – the speaker rarely ever is in a position, especially where these political sensitivities do, legitimately, exist, to say who is not to be offended. My position is often to ignore such remarks as the reflections of a stupid mind/ person. It does not, however, change the fact that the public invocation of these terms can and do have a deadly effect, if even in terms of how we think about each other.

    The point is less that people will be inclined to be stupid and, in some cases hateful, but that where the instances of it are pointed out that we highlight them and continue the dialogue to widen understanding. From where I sit, I take no special offense with being referred to in any kind of way, other than where spurious remarks are made about a community which you are percieved to belong to, in my case ‘black people’.

    There is a sort of underlying assumption, often, in such remarks of an overly personal knowledge of (all) ‘black people’ and, by extension me. I actively resist being labelled in these ways, in part, because outside of what I say in a specific setting there is nothing to suggest that the other speakers, especially those who make these remarks, know anything about me. Thus, the offensiveness of a word comes insofar as the assumptions which it makes and its subsequent refusal to acknowledge these glaring biases and to, therefore, seek correction.

  25. 25 Monica in DC
    January 12, 2009 at 17:18

    I’m with Malc Dow ….

    Sticks and stones will hurt my bones but names will never harm me.

  26. January 12, 2009 at 17:28

    @ Akiva from Israel,

    I just wondered about your claims in terms of the perceived distinctions between the Israeli state and its actions against Hamas and Jewish people around the world, as well as the Arabic people and their support for Hamas. Perhaps you could explain whether there is a real distinction, in terms of how people define their links to a nation through the sorts of symbolic and ideological (including the religious, as well) ways that I hear implicated in your remarks above. I am not so sure I either understand or fully agree, if I do, with your premise about how these distinctions are being made in the current crisis, notwithstanding the examples you have given.

    In effect, the politics of this war, transcend those of geograpyhy and include in them alternative ways of defining a nation. So that, while one may not live in Israel or, for that matter, Gaza many are already implicated in the happenings there in very real ways. That is not the same as saying that all Jewish people support the war, whether inside Israel or outside of it, or that the rest of the world believes it.

    Nor, is it to suggest that pro-Hamas supporters are all Gaza bound or that they do not see that the actions of Israel also, directly or otherwise, politicises the relations between Arabs and Jews and, possibly, the rest of the world. It simply (?) means that within the context of a globalised world politics, these issues are never as simple or as clear cut as they sometimes appear, or even as the news media often try to represent them as being.

  27. 27 Abram
    January 12, 2009 at 17:39

    When there is a devlopment of “Inferiority Complex” in a particular entity, hatred will be born — from there everything will be seen through “Racist Eyes” and reacism and other weak human qualities.

  28. 28 Vijay
    January 12, 2009 at 17:58

    When is a word Racist?

    It depends on the word and it depends on the context.

    The use of language does matter ,in the case of Prince Harry , the culture of laddish banter is the problem,he should have used PAK instead of paki as the contraction for Pakistani.
    Raghead or towelhead are used as terms of abuse for an Arab,nothing else.I have only heard of paki being used in a derogatory way,while I have heard African Americans call each other nigger or slave.

    Ethnic minorities should have a greater prescence in the Armed forces and police ,however this type of incident will dent recruitment.

  29. January 12, 2009 at 18:00

    Words are just sounds: it’s context and intent that give words meaning. Certain words remind us of certain things, and racist or racially insensitive words—nigger, kike, gook, spic, wog, paki, wetback, slope, raghead, sand nigger, camel jockey, etc.—are all problematic and should not be used because:

    a) these words are race/color/ethnicity-specific and are used to identify people because of something they have no control over (skin color, linguistic background, physical appearance, etc.)

    b) these words are often associated with a period of human history in which tremendous violence or injustice was being done to the subjects of these words at the same time that the words were created or came into widespread use. How can we separate “nigger” from the brutality and dehumanization of slavery and Jim Crow? Can we think about wogs and gooks and slopes without also remembering European imperialist violence in Asia? And where do we draw the line between the word “paki” and the physical and verbal violence visited upon South Asians in Britain?

    c) because all these words are related to real violence, dehumanization, and exploitation, they are unacceptable under any circumstances. These words came out of an imbalance of power at a time when strong European nations wielded a tremendous and disproportionate amount of power over Black and brown-skinned people in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. That imbalance of power was manifested in the ability of Europeans to define—i.e., make up names for—non-European peoples, a power never wielded with as much success by non-Europeans and non-colonial/imperial nations.

    d) the power imbalance means that no word made up for White Europeans will ever have the same power to so collectively hurt, demean, denigrate, and humiliate because the historical context in which these words were born was so one-sided against the people those words are used against (Africans, Black Americans, Latinos, Jews, Arabs and Muslims, South and East Asians).

    For the reasons outlined above (and so many others), it is never appropriate to use race- or ethnic-specific slurs. We should also add to this list slurs against homosexuals, transgendered, and bisexual people.

    There are many slang terms of endearment that we can use to refer to one another. Racial and racialized terms are not terms of endearment. They are simply offensive.

  30. 30 leighton
    January 12, 2009 at 18:00

    Obviously, context is important. See, for instance, Chris Rock’s hilarious sketch (in “Kill the Messnger”) where he jokes about the restricted instances in which a white person may be permitted to call a black person “nigger”.

    Hence, the military setting and the “rough” camaraderie of comrades-in-arms may somewhat mitigate the use of the term–but ONLY if the “Paki” himself did not find it offensive to be so addressed. This is the crux of the matter. It seems (based on the broadcasted views of the father of the “Paki”) that the officer did find the appellation offensive. (I have not seen the video.)

  31. 31 Steve
    January 12, 2009 at 18:15

    If shortening a name is somehow racist, then I highly recommend you not call people from Scotland Scots, and perhaps call them English? I’m sure they will be absolutely thrilled with that!

    There is no difference between calling a Pakistani a Paki than it is for the German term for Americans, “Amis”. When I go to Germany, I’m “Steve the Ami” and I come from Amiland. Why is it not offensive to me?

  32. January 12, 2009 at 18:15

    When the person being referred to in ‘derogatory’ terms is not white or Western. Never have I heard of whites complaining of racism. Maybe it could be because very often they are cited as masterminds of the said ‘crime’.

  33. 33 Justin from Iowa
    January 12, 2009 at 18:18

    Honestly, in America, anyone who might be derogatively associated with the N word, its getting to the point where you’ve got your own culture to blame – how many comedians, rappers, singers, anyone who thinks themselves cool and hip, drops that word when describing himself and his buddies. Then you expect the word to have the same connotation of evil as it had in the past?

    I’m not going to follow this topic much, as I honestly think everything that might be important about this topic has been said and chewed over endlessly, and the BBC is going to create nothing but ratings and anger by broadcasting such a pointless topic.

    Here’s an interesting hypothetical in parting though. 5 friends are walkin down the street, 4 black kids and a white kid. The white kid, somehow, someway, has never heard the N word before meeting his new mates. The black kids have been jokin and callin each other or the group slanged N words for weeks, and the white kid, only knowing his buddies call each other this term in good fun all the time, joins in in saying it.

    Is he a racist?

  34. 34 Vijay
    January 12, 2009 at 18:24

    When lord rifkind was the foreign Minister of the UK I was appalled to hear that a German newspaper had started an article with “The Jew,Rifkind”

  35. 35 Cris from El Paso, Texas
    January 12, 2009 at 18:25

    I understand the idea of brotherhood that military units most develop, and nicknames are a common part of that, but is it not disturbing that these nicknames are developed through very race based notions? Shouldn’t we, as societies, do a better job at eliminating racial understandings of the world? Isn’t this instance just a clear example that we are failing at this?

    The words are just that, words. But even in a joking manner, the bigger problem is that he stated it as his friend “looking” like a “rag head.” Presupposing a vision stereotype. Coming from someone in a position where violence is part of the duty, this seems like a very dangerous understanding of the world.

  36. 36 Philippa
    January 12, 2009 at 18:25

    A word is racist when it is intended to be racist. Anyone who has seen the video knows that this is not the case with Prince Harry.

    I play cards once a month with a group of friends in which we amuse ourselves with cries of “you faggot!”, “you female!”, “you papist!”, “you cheese-head!” (Dutch person), etc… Clearly we mean no harm, we love each other.

    Speaking only for myself, I am becoming increasingly irritated by this language police. They are the ones who force people to create card clubs with bizarre habits and protocols.

    It’s difficult to imagine that we’re having this conversation at all tonight, as the slaughter rages on in Gaza.

  37. 37 Pete
    January 12, 2009 at 18:29

    Get off the politically correctness, you twits!
    Were the soldiers involved offended? This would then be something that Harry should apologize to them for, not make some groveling public statement.

    Making a media fuss over this enflames the situation.

    WORDS don’t bother me.

    Here, in america, blacks can use a racial slang word among themselves, but members or other races can’t use it, even in the same, friendly manner blacks use it, without drawing claims of racism.

    You, the Media, are making the word ‘Paki’ more powerful by your coverage.

    We all say something that can be deemed inappropriate by others at time.

  38. 38 Mark of England
    January 12, 2009 at 18:32

    There will always be someone somewhere who can take offence at something.
    Surely the best way to deal with people who you personally find offensive is simply to ignore them. That would be the grown-up thing to do.

    Lastly, Pakistan translates literally as ‘land of the Paki’ as in Hindustan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan etc. Is the term ‘Afghan’ offensive?

  39. 39 Doug in Berlin
    January 12, 2009 at 18:33

    I don’t understand why this this discussion of racist language by Harry is only concentrating on the use of the term “Paki” – the use of “F***ing Raghead” is far more troubling when one considers it is being used by a member of armed forces fighting (and responsible for the death of many civilians) in Afghanistan. It suggests a generalising and racist attitude within these armed forces which goes a long way towards explaining how indiscriminate “collateral” damage is possible. I would welcome a discussion of these wider implications.

  40. 40 Venessa
    January 12, 2009 at 18:33

    Words are exactly that. Choose to be offended or not. Our society has become obsessed with political correctness so much that every word is analyzed.

  41. 41 Siddharth
    January 12, 2009 at 18:34

    Paki word is offensive if it is used to refer people from India. Indians dont like to be associated with Pakistanis.

  42. January 12, 2009 at 18:37

    @ rawpoliticsjamaicastyle

    Honestly I don’t go out of my way to be offended. If someone is referring to “the Jews” instead of “the Jewish people” in a general or generic fashion, such as “the Jews migrated to northeastern Europe following their expulsion from Spain”, I doubt anyone would be offended.

    However, when someone is saying “Kill the Jews”, I think that’s a pretty valid reason for being offended. In that sense, “Kill the Jewish People” is certainly going to be just as offensive (even if sounding more sophisticated).

    Relative to current events, that is my complaint. If you wish to protest against the actions of a nation, protest away. If you extend that to threatening a people-race-ethnicity-religion, then you’ve crossed into dangerous territory. Being Jewish, naturally I feel threatened when people are marching in large numbers suggesting I be subject to genocide. And I don’t think that type of protest should be tolerated.

  43. 43 Donnamarie in Switzerland
    January 12, 2009 at 18:37

    Back in the days of Zia al Haq in the 1970’s, I had a serious relationship with a Pakistani. In Beverly Hills the term “Paki” was unknown. When I refused the Pakistani’s proposal of marriage he beat me up because a woman was not permitted to deny the wishes of a man.

    Now, shall we get our undies in a bunch over words like “Paki” or might we talk about more serious issues of discrimination, like that against Western women who are injured by Eastern men who refuse to give up their traditional mindsets even after they emigrate to another country and culture?

  44. 44 Oscar Turner
    January 12, 2009 at 18:42

    Why are you having this conversation? Language is a constantly evolving thing. Ahmed didn’t seem offended did he? I have many Asian friends I call them Pakis they call me Whitey.

  45. 45 Steve T
    January 12, 2009 at 18:42

    Discussions like this cause racism. This specific discussion has irratated me beyond belief. It is the sympathy culture that we have imposed on the “minorities” over the last decade. Paki is short for Packistan – to me the Packistanies cannot be offended because that is what they are as I am a Brit. The guy on the show, is taking the ignorance from the past from a minority that called Indians “Packis” – a sort of catch me all word for brown people. The rag head thing is alot better than things like Dirty Arab, which used to be used in the 60s. We are supposed to live in a multiculural society and by default, that means different cultures etc – what else do we ban and call racist, scouse, Brit, Jock, cockney, trust me I have used cockney in a negative tone many times. No-one complained when that Indian Comedy show – doing an English. The Brits laugh at everyone INCLUDING ourselves. In the 80s / 90s remember, we could not even show the Union flag, because that was allegidly highjacked by the right ring. This whole thing has gone mad.

    PS you have just stopped a caller using the word Packi – SO YOU HAVE ALREADY DECIDED THIS WORD IS RASIST.

    Typical BBC

  46. 46 Shari
    January 12, 2009 at 18:42

    As an American the word P. does not have shock value to me. However, if Prince Harry had called him the N word my alarm buttons would have been going off instantly.

    Having said that, the tone of Harry’s voice did not sound negative. It sounded familiar and friendly.

    My biggest question is where is the outrage for the bloke who sold the video (for reportedly a five figure sum) to the tabloid? Seems like that behavior should be the topic of a segment. When is selling a privately produced video of a public figure OK? Or is it ever justified?

  47. 47 archibald in oregon
    January 12, 2009 at 18:43

    @ rawpolitics

    Point taken. Oddly enough, of all racial groups, whites are the only ones that seem to welcome potentially derogatory remarks as a sort of inclusion in the overall sphere of racial groups that they themselves have negatively labeled throughout recent history. I am white and still take no offense to the term “cracker”, “shorty”, “white boy”, etc. even though I know the negativity it infers. This is may be due, in large part, to the fact that whites carry an excess of subconscious guilt at their racist past and believe that reverse racism is a part of reconciliation for that history. That said, I do not find this to be an acceptable solution, just an observed fact.
    My way of dealing with any racist comments is usually to repeat the term to the person inquisitively and if ignored to repeat until so recognized. None of it is acceptable, but, there are so many instances where race related comments are bandied about as forms of endearment, especially amongst friends of different origins. I found this to be the standard in the U.K. and quite common throughout Europe. As far as the U.S. is concerned, the wounds are still quite raw and such banter always borders on the negative. Once again we are back to inference and recognition is always a first step.

  48. 48 Larry
    January 12, 2009 at 18:44

    Prince Harry was being patronizing to his army “mate”, much as anyone in a supposedly friendly manner would use such ethnic or religious “nicknames”. Such words are racist especially when the person using the word comes from the race, or ethnicity that historically has had political power over the other. The British have been a super power over PAkistan, and thus Harry’s paternalistic use of the word is inappropriate. Use intelligent language, not terms of ignorance, even in a joking manner.

  49. 49 Shaka
    January 12, 2009 at 18:45

    Here i am in Trinidad and i dont see any problem with it, my friend a “white” person is call white, honky even nigga, redman , i even know people who call him german no hard feelings. i my self am of mixed decent am called by all sorts . this has not affected our lives in any means.
    Its a matter of perspective and the context in which the statement was made. i think we are personally too involved in the military. We MUST remember that they were hopefully having fun amongst themselves you call your brother names you call you sister names so then what is the big difference .

    I think that people need to be able to look past these minor things and put their minds to figuring out how to combat recession or better yet how to make peace in gaza


  50. 50 anthony
    January 12, 2009 at 18:48

    Low self Esteem is the problem not the use of language.

  51. 51 Justin from Iowa
    January 12, 2009 at 18:48

    Why is it funny when, in the us for example, a black person can call a white person a cracka or any other derogatory term and tis funny, but if a white person calls a black person a N he’s a racist.

    Its illogical.

  52. 52 Steve
    January 12, 2009 at 18:50

    I’m now rememembering a British History course I took 13 years ago now, and I do remember the Professor talking about “Paki bashing” when Britons would go around to beat up people from the subcontinent. I suppose if the word “Paki” is linked to violence against them, then yes, I would think due to that linkage, it could be offensive. But if it’s just due to being a shortened version of Pakistani, then it’s just an abbreviation, and nothing more.

  53. 53 Bharati Kasibhatla
    January 12, 2009 at 18:50

    the context of this comment is the war itself, which in addition to taking lives, furthers pernicious racism and xenophobia. in that atmosphere, is it any wonder that people hate? the main point is not that there is hatred, which there is, but why. we need to think of war itself as the problematic situation.

  54. 54 Erica Canada
    January 12, 2009 at 18:52

    San Francisco.

    Its this simple. Racism is the systemic power of one race over an other. The fact that harry is White and the third in line for the crown is what makes this such a big deal. Everyone is prejudious. That indian guy you had on is a prejudious man. He thinks its funny even.

    The only thing I can really say is Prince Harry needs a leash or something. He is constantly in trouble. And he also has a flare for interacting in racist ways (his nazi halloween costume)

  55. 55 Larry
    January 12, 2009 at 18:53

    What I find more offensive than these vernacular derogatory terms for different races, are the terms used daily in our media, and by our politicians to describe what’s perceived as the enemies of the US and Britain. Namely the term “terrorist” is widely bantered around the media to describe Arabs and Muslims in particular. It’s a horrible demonization of these vast portions of the human race that is shocking almost every day on the news.

    Now that would be a good discussion for one of your shows.

  56. 56 Patti in Florida
    January 12, 2009 at 18:54

    Believe it or not, depending on who says it and when, calling someone black ( negra or negro) or fat, (gorda or gordo) on the Barranquilla coast of Colombia is actually a term of affection, especially when used with your significant other. I try to explain this to my English-speaking friends and they have a hard time understanding it. I would never use these words in English, because it would be insulting in that particular language. There is nothing wrong in being black or fat, but it is a totally different conotation in English!

  57. 57 Erica Canada
    January 12, 2009 at 18:54

    I would also like to say Harry will never know what it is to be a person of color/”underclass” status and apparently neither does anyone who comes to his defense.

  58. 58 Michelle from Jamaica
    January 12, 2009 at 18:54

    This was a complete waste of Airspace. BBC you can do better. Find a real issue.

  59. 59 Bob Shurtleff
    January 12, 2009 at 18:54

    Words have a life of their own. Whether a word is offensive may depend on who says it. Here in the U.S., the N-word was used for generations to put down people of African origin. Now, people who identify a Arican Americans easily use the word with one another. When a “white” person uses the word, however, it is usually offensive. Similarly, the word “queer” is much more acceptable when used by someone who identifies as homosexual than when it is used by someone who does not so identify.

    When a word is used to oppress a group of people, those people often adopt that word themselves as a form of defiance. It becomes not a put down but an expression of rebellion.

  60. January 12, 2009 at 18:54

    I do not believe that Prince Harry was trying to be malicious but I think given his position in British society and education, he should have known better.

    We should not be surprised by Prince Harry. After all, he also exhibited a complete lack of judgement around the same time by wearing a Nazi uniform to a fancy dress party.

  61. 61 ~Dennis Junior~
    January 12, 2009 at 18:56

    A word becomes racist when it offends a large segment of society….

    The N word….
    The F word….

    ~Dennis Junior~

  62. 62 Erika from Portland OR
    January 12, 2009 at 18:56

    I think everyone agrees that we wish to remove hurtful words from our daily language. There are two ways to approach this: remove the word all together, or remove the negative intention from the word. The first requires personal censorship, and the second requires habituating the public to the word in a neutral or even positive manor. Both action are being taken in our society. The real question, is which method is working best?

  63. 63 Taylor
    January 12, 2009 at 18:57

    Given the post colonial legacy of the British Empire and its effect on socio-economic class abroad resulting in emigration to the UK from the commonwealth, a Royal should be more discerning in his use of popular vernacular.

  64. 64 John N
    January 12, 2009 at 18:58

    Isn’t this much to do about nothing?

    Are Taffy and Paddy still considered racist term? Our language continues to evolve, Paki seems to be headed for the same fate

  65. 65 Justin from Iowa
    January 12, 2009 at 18:59

    To the commenter on the show talking about how the bible is racist… How many african beliefs depict evil as black, darkness, shadow…

    That was the most blatantly RACIST comment made on this entire show, and the fact that that reverse-racism gets off scott free without even a comment is the problem with our society right now.

  66. 66 bjay
    January 12, 2009 at 19:01

    When is a word racist?

    YE !

    When you get to the point, whatever side you on to say;
    ‘IT IS TYPICAL’ !!!!!
    Ye, and don’t forget to point your finger, otherwise you missing the point.

    bjay connotation with accent.

  67. 67 John Foster
    January 12, 2009 at 19:01

    I agreee with the guest who just mentioned the power relationship. Racism is in essence a power relationship. It’s use in that context has the most edge, whether intended or not. Most white people in the USA at a certain time would not have had much consciousness of offending African Americans, it probably would not have crossed their minds because the power relationship was so well defined. This is not an equal society at all, but it isn’t quite so stark as it once was. One might think of the relationship of English to the Irish of a 100 years ago or more and today.

  68. 68 Peter
    January 12, 2009 at 19:05

    I have seen Prince Harry embrace young African children who’s little bodies are ravaged by HIV/AIDS. Little bodies that our African leaders will never touch. There’s nothing racist about Prince Harry; maybe he made an honest mistake but he’s not racist. My friends and I call each other the N word. Some of my white friends call me that. I don’t believe they’re racist

    London, England

  69. 69 Sudeep
    January 12, 2009 at 19:10

    A word is racist when it has a long history of being used in racist connotations.

    I grew up in Australia and of Asian/Indian origin. The P word was never used as a racist term in Australia. It was never used as derrogatory term used to group Pakistanis, indians, bangladeshis, Sri Lankans etc., hence i never really found it that offensice.

    However, after spending 4 years in London i learnt EXACTLY how racist this term is considered. I learnt of its history and past associations. And to be honest, any idiot who has spent time in the UK would know that the P word is quite abhorrent to British Asians.

    All this talk of the Prince (and i use that term loosely) not being aware of its impact is total rubbish. If he wasnt aware of its sensitivity (just like the Nazi costume), it really shows how foolish AND so far removed from UK society the Royal family actually are.

    ps to the American poster above, the P word in the UK is equally offensive to British Asians as the N word is the African Americans.

  70. 70 ray
    January 12, 2009 at 19:12

    if i am a british citizen then paki is bad word to call me, if i am a pakastain citizen then paki is not bad to call me. dont call me africian if i am british citizen i am no longer africian national, also treat me as any british citizen, one un ited kingdom?

  71. 71 Robert
    January 12, 2009 at 19:18

    Calling somebody Paki is not only racist but in this case extremely patronizing. This word is coming from a Prince not a hoodie. Harry is not a street boy and exactly knows what he said. I must say this surprises me that there is a shadow of a doubt that this word is racist. Throughout this debate BBC is putting in an extremely awkward position people of Pakistani descent. It is almost like talking about rape on smb publicly and asking others if rape is harmful or not. There will be always some people that may say rape is not really that harmful. You can always live with it!

  72. 72 Charles
    January 12, 2009 at 19:18

    Saying a word is Racist is itself a copout and white supremacy should be used rather than racist. The problem with the “P” word or the “N” is that the persons using the word are saying they feel supreme to another person and no person can appreciate that. It is all about whites feeling supreme to people of color all over the world. When whites stop hiding behind the term Racist and admit that white supremacy is the largest reason for most of the problems in the world.

  73. 73 Dictatore Generale Max Maximilian Maximus I
    January 12, 2009 at 19:32

    Fact: All of US are racist. Definitely between ‘others’ and even among ‘ourselves’! Proof/Root: All of us originated in/from tribes and our tribal loyalties are almost primal regardless of the colour of our skin or our religion or whatever.

    As an Indian I know that Indians are highly/quite racist among themselves. Forget about racist attitudes among Indians about others!

    ‘The TV soap/series ‘Mind Your Language’ (as I was given to understand) was not continued partly due to Political Correctness. if that is true that is indeed a tragedy. Why?

    The soap/serial not only made fun of Indians, Pakistanis, Chinese, Japanese, Greeks, Italians et al; it made fun of the English too. (The English/British teacher and the English/British Principal)!

    To me the key issue is the development of the capacity to laugh at others and the capacity to laugh at yourself; with the latter being more important.

    Thus, the key words are context, intent, ‘atmosphere’, attitude and so on and the bottom line is laughter.

    If we wish to; and in the context of Indians alone, the Indians could fight till kingdom come about whose hair is more black as compared to the other!

    To me the key is to find our common weaknesses and strengths through laughter! Life is short and laughter is a good medicine, if not the best.

  74. 74 Richaard Brown, Portland, Or
    January 12, 2009 at 19:43

    As a 70 year old African American, I would like to say the notion of taking the sting out of a slur, by using it, is not new.

    As a younger man in the military, in one of the “change the world” groups I was involved with the idea was put forth, by a white person, that the “N word” be openly used. It was short lived. It turned out not to be a very popular idea when I used the word to address or describe them- the non African Americans.

    To make matters worse, some African Americans are now trying to popularize the word. The historical connotations the word had, and still has, to me will never change.

  75. 75 Sadderweiser
    January 12, 2009 at 19:46

    Several things I have read in the comments bother me:

    Firstly, I am British according to my EU passport, and English by birthplace. Why have the micks, jocks and taffs got monikers, and the English ain’t got none? I want one, even if I’m only one-quarter English genetically. (By the way, only micks, jocks and taffs are genetically really British (Celtic), the English being Germanic, of course.)

    Secondly, Arabs are Afro-Asian semites, genetically, historically and linguistically: they were pagan animists, then one of them called Abraham invented Judaism, which another one of them called Jesus used as the basis of his set-up, then a third one called Mohammed thought it could be improved and called it Islam, anyway it’s all that Arab Abraham’s fault and all three of those blokes were Arabs, semites.

    Thirdly, I am a yid by any reckoning, purebred kosher Mum. And this is where people should try to get it right: if criticising Israel, remember that 20% of Israelis are Arab, many of them Christian, so leave them out. What to call what’s left? Many are orthodox Jews who loudly refuse outright to recognise Israel’s right to exist, refuse to pay tax, do military service, or even work, so leave them out. What’s left, then? Well, Israel exists really only because of the zionist plan, so if wishing to apportion blame, as I do, then that is probably the most appropriate group to identify as the ‘problem’. These are the fundamentally racist people who, since the beginning of their project, steal homes, land and water from their rightful owners, shoot Palestinian neighbours and their own prime minister in cold blood, create ghettos and concentration camps, and, in carrying out their present pogrom, are accused by the UN, the Red Cross, Oxfam etc of breaking the laws of warfare and so on ad nauseam.

    That’s why, when I parade outside the Israeli Embassy, my placard reads


    Thank goodness I’m not alone

  76. 76 Dictatore Generale Max Maximilian Maximus I
    January 12, 2009 at 19:47

    Re: Charles
    January 12, 2009 at 19:18

    Yes! In the recent ‘White’ dominated world most of the problems are due to the Whites. But, aeons ago and in lands far away from any ‘Whites’ there was racism too! And the problems at that time weren’t due to the ‘Whites’! Ask the Chinese and/or the Indians as their cultures supposedly go back to the time when the ‘Whites’ were barbarians and the Chinese and/or Indians were ‘civilised’!

    The reality is NOT so simple, Charles!

  77. January 12, 2009 at 19:48

    @ Akiva in Israel,

    I completely empathise with your situation. In fact, my point was less about the merits of what you said in your last response. Instead, the issue of the construction of the narrative surrounding the coverage of this war between Israel and Gaza impacts us (all) at a deep and guttural level. This goes way beyond the question of national loyalties, bounded by geography.

    In other words, given the way Israel has acted, notwithstanding what might well be legitimate grouses, there is a sort of ‘overkill’ that this war suggests that touches off nerves in several places. This does not mean that all Israelis support the war or that all people of Arabic descent are pro-Hamas. But it does create a context in which it is very liklely that relations between these two people, as well as others, become increasingly more tense.

    For sure, the temperature of anti-Israeli sentiments have racheted up significantly since the air strikes begun and now ground invasion. This impacts you whether you live in Israel/ Gaza, or not. So that your last point about being worried is well taken, in terms of people suggesting ‘kill Jews’ because of the actions of the Israeli government/ military! That is unacceptable by any defintion!

    Still, we do need to ensure that the dialogue is widened and that real information is transmitted under such circumstances. This is why, discussions like these are very important! So, I disagree that this is a waste of time.


    Further, archibald’s point about how to address racism, in whichever direction, further underscores the seriousness of these issues. I do not share the position that any one group is more deserving of verbal mistreatment, as in the example he points out above.Rather, I feel that half the battle is won by confronting these deeply emotional, often complex and sometimes, personal issues.

    The problem with racism is that we are all affected in some way and all respond to it, often in less than creditable ways ourselves. Therein lies the need for the dialogue! So, more power to WHYS and the BBC, in this regard!

  78. 78 John Smith - Jamaica
    January 12, 2009 at 19:50

    Sorry I missed the programme, but here is my £1 (darn this inflation)

    There are far more important things to worry about that being politically correct. If it is one thing I have learnt from all this is that someone will always be offended.

    I once was among a group of older folks and called them “senior citizens” and one woman was offended. She was only 67 and the baby of the group and preferred being termed “middle-aged.” Teenagers are now called young people (I am still young, how comes I don’t seem to fit into that age category)

    Where nationalities are concerned, I am Jamaican so if someone were to walk up to me and say “hello yardie”, I wouldn’t be offended, for though the yardies are notorious gangsters, they were also Jamaican and the person is merely acknowledging my nationality. So what if a Pakistani is called a “Paki” or an Indian is called a “Coolie”? Is it a crime to call someone a frenchie, spaniard or roma. Get over it. The time spent worrying about these words we craft is better spent thinking of ways to tackle the more pressing issues of war, famine and disease.

  79. 79 David Waln
    January 12, 2009 at 19:52

    All people, in aggregate, are tribally competitive. We know this is a problem in the modern world, and have devised ways, through competitive sports, to give this potential source of ill will some supervised expression and release.

    Individuals, also, selfishly self-interestedly, compete with each other. Language gives you a clue as to the lengths they will go at your expense. Other things give you clues as well. Ignore them at your peril.

    It’s like in an old ‘Western’ movie when the cowboy says, “Smile when you say that, pardner.”. He could be his own police, presumably because he was able and ready to defend himself. But because not every one can be their own police, we have social taboos to help police things a little, lest things get too out of hand.

    There will always be people willing to push the limits of advantage as far as you will let them. Those who can will always have to harass the harassers a little bit.

  80. 80 Kathy
    January 12, 2009 at 20:05

    The concept of “race” is a vestage of colonialism. It falsely catorgorizes human beings simply for economic advantage. While there has always been slavery, through the ages masters were not considered human and slaves subhuman. It was far simpler. Everyone was a human being, but to the winners went the spoils. This was the understanding of war.
    The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Cleveland, Ohio, USA hosted a traveling exhibit, “Race: Are we so different?” through the American Anthropological Association. The exhibit was a tremendous draw and the center of much discussion. We are still involved in What’s next? Find the AAA statement on RACE and information about the RACE: Are We SO Different Project at http://www.understandingrace.org/about/statement.html.

  81. 81 Syed Hasan Turab
    January 12, 2009 at 20:23

    As far as I remember Canadian start calling “PAKI” in Canada in 1964, after realising the political structure & contribution of Pakistani nation in development of Canada they quet.
    I dont understand why Prince Herry revive this term in Birtish culture?
    Any way Birtish Colonism is an historical fact & it took 60 years to wipe out publically, may be Royal’s take little longer.
    Wearing Sawistaka shirt may be understand symbal of discrimination, double standard, & promotion of hate, obiously it effect Gaza Invador’s of Isriel & rest of the Jewish community world wide, including me myself as a muslim.
    We dont have ability to change the mentality of each & every human being in the presance of Democracy & personal freedom, no doubt his royal status is projecting his personal school of thought beyond our expectation’s.
    In my openion he has a right to express himself boldly & independately.

  82. 82 Ramesh
    January 12, 2009 at 20:58

    A few weeks ago I read that a BBC female employee(probably a journalist) had to resign as she asked a cab service not to send south asian driver to her service. Obviously, she must have used more offensive words. At that time itself i expected some discussion on WHYS on racism. But WHYS team chose to be silent on the matter. I like to hear some clarification on this matter by WHYS team.

    I Misspelled cab as can in my previous message. Hope you(WHYS editors) ignore that message and consider this one.

  83. 83 ru3lz
    January 12, 2009 at 21:26

    the problem with humans is that we take everything out of context just to highlight our own insecurities in racial pride.i’m jamaican and that makes me stigmatised byboth race and nationality.however the notion that a word is racist is only when one from a different race considers himself/herself inferior or superior to the other.the issue that needs to be addressed is the atmosphere that breeds the ideology of superiority or inferiority as the case maybe.words are jus exactly that words,its because of ideology or the perception of how we view each other that give words meaning as per the frame of reference,under which they maybe viewed as racist in meaning.so to be clear cut there isn’t in my opinion a rascist word.we need to dispell the fascination with the differences in the human family created by a few genetic mutations and embrace our diversity as a species so we can truely evolve.

  84. 84 DC from Sydney
    January 13, 2009 at 00:23

    May I address Amos’ comment on air illustrating the English language to be racist. He argued that the ‘Christian bible says that black is evil and white is pure’.
    1) The bible was written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. English was not yet spoken.
    2) The bible was not written by people who would be considered white in our context; they were written by people in the current land of Palestine.
    3) There are examples where black and white are used as a metaphor for good and evil, but they are not necessarily racist. Snow and fine linen are white when pure.
    Please do not assume the bible to be a racist tool of White supremacists. It’s just not accurate.

  85. 85 Jeanne in Portland
    January 13, 2009 at 01:36

    I don’t think there can be any confusion by now that there are words that an ethnic or racial group can use in humor and affection with each other that are not acceptable if used by others (the “N” word being a prime example). My sense is that Harry did not speak out of malicious overt racism, but rather out of a naive racism that doesn’t recognize the implications of his words or the inherent racism in separating a group out with a teasingly derogatory statement. While we in the States aren’t as familiar with the “P” word as derogatory, certainly no one could interpret “You look like a raghead” as an intended compliment.

  86. 86 Michael Noble
    January 13, 2009 at 03:12

    No-one has mentioned freedom of speech here…..

    I don’t care what is said or what is called – the bottom line is that when there is legislation to prevent me saying whatever word then we are on the way to a police state.

    I am prevented from saying “racist” words in the UK and my government tells me I have freedom of speech….

    Whether you want to call someone a derogatory word or not IS the issue – NOT for the government to legislate.

    “Racism” is made into a colour of skin issue by legislation here in the UK.
    If I had a dispute with a neighbour then it would be a “racist” issue ONLY if they were black or asian…..

    I must add that if I were to go live in a foreign land I would not expect nor wish for legislation to prevent anyone saying or having an opinion about me or English or whatever. If I was “Brit bashed” then someone made that choice and was ignorant of what a great bloke I am!

  87. 87 natalie sara
    January 13, 2009 at 04:35

    among my friends and i, school groups and such, we share racist jokes with each other. and sometimes its the person who’s race is being ‘targeted’ who comes up with it.

    come on! we should totally laugh away the stereotypes of each race and religion.

  88. 88 ~Dennis Junior~
    January 13, 2009 at 05:04

    Some terms [words] that I will leave out, Like what Prince Harry used and other terms that I and most people have heard….are not acceptable things to say…

    ~Dennis Junior~

  89. 89 Paul W
    January 13, 2009 at 10:15

    Given Harry is a member of the Royal family, what he says is ok for me.

    The scum that force him to apologize for an inocuous comment should be put in the tower.

    As for apologizing to Pakistan…Yeah right, we owned them and they should NEVER be allowed to forget that.

  90. January 13, 2009 at 10:21

    I’m sorry but considering the life and expectations that Harry has, he should have known better. Harry should have been aware that many implications can be made from the way he referred to his friend however i think if his friends were okay with being called ‘paki’ or ‘raghead’ i don’t think it was nice to make this such an issue because we do not know the friendship Harry holds with the two asians he reffered to therefore should it have been broadcasted like this ?? and because of Harry’s position he should be more of a role model because his behaviour could have a huge impact on the rest of the UK. I’m not condoning this terminology but as an asian person myself even i can see it from both sides as some of my friends and even colleagues say it but they would not use such terms to an asian person whom they do not know.
    So Harry just be more careful of what you say where there’s camera’s!!!!!

  91. 91 Roberto
    January 13, 2009 at 10:39

    RE “” If I’m sitting opposite as Asian collegue here in Bush House and I shout out “hoi Paki!” the reaction would probably start with stunned silence and end with me leaving the BBC. “”

    —————I’d say most if not overwhelmingly most in the western world have had worse things done to them in the workforce.

    The whole of the world is either burning, starving, killing each other when not robbing each other blind, and the beeb and Brits make Prince Harry’s minor off the cuff remark in his military unit a major issue?

    Absolute piffle. The sheer bulk of mall minded people will be the death of us, all drowning in their nonsense.

  92. 92 parth guragain,nepal
    January 13, 2009 at 10:46

    in Nepali context word pahade[for people living in hills]is considered appropriate whereas phadiya is considered racist.simillarily madhesi[for people living in terai]is considered appropriate whereas dhoti is considered racist.we shouldn’t hurt ayones felling and call them by their appropriate names.as one of nepal greatest poet Laxmi prasad Deokota said human become great by their deeds not by their caste.

  93. 93 john in Germany
    January 13, 2009 at 12:18

    When Prince Harry called a Soldier mate …………….then where i s the problem?. Non other than the target of the News Papers to maintain, and increase the sales.

    There is so much news of world importance at the moment, normally there should be no room for such trivialities.

    Prince Harry was in a military environment, where nicknames are used more that real names, except in the rank difference. I would not mention what i have been called when i was a professional Soldier. We had a bloody good mate who was coloured, we called him dem bones, we trusted each other, and any one that had no nickname was not liked.

    For Gods sake leave Harry alone, No one can live a proper life these days (alway thinking-is this racially correct-can it offend) and appeasing In Many cases-Not All, to the whims of certain minorities that are just looking for something to make trouble. And don’t forget as a young man he lost someone very important to him, I will not say any more. Just leave him alone, let him get on with his life, and he will re-pay manifold.

    A lot of The Press has lost its respectability a long time ago.

    Sad old World.

    John in Germany.

  94. 94 primal convoy in Japan
    January 13, 2009 at 13:34

    This is a really topical discussion for many of us foreigners here in Japan. I’m not sure if many of you know about the many problems Japan or Japanese people have with coexisting with “non-Japanese” in their own country, but, one example of a problem is with the terms “Gaijin” and “Gaikokojin”.

    Basically, the term “Gaijin” can mean “Foreigner”, “Outsider” or more exclusively “White Foreigner” or even just “Westerner”. It has been used also in a derogatory manner, to mean “foreign pig/devil” in WW2.

    The other problems with “Gaijin” is that it has been said to reinforce ethnocentricity or at least the belief that Japanese people are somehow different from the rest of the world (Indeed the term “ware ware Nihonjin” literally means “We Japanese” as opposed to “all of you foreigners”). For example, some Japanese, even on holiday in another country, will refer to the locals as “Gaijin” (Check the Japanese reporters for such TV delights as the 2008 Olympics at youtube for example).

    Thus the Government use the term “Gaikokojin” which means “foreign person” for all official documentation and is meant to be officially used as the “PC” term for all foreigners. Another, colloquial polite term (at least according to Japanese themselves) is “Gaijin-San” (lit: “Honorable Outsider/Foreigner”, but could also be just as good as “That nice Coloured man” if use by someone like my Nan in the UK for a cultural example in the UK perhaps).

    History lesson aside, I myself get irked when I hear people say “Gaijin Da!” (“Oh my goodness everyone, look: a FOREIGNER!”) or hear Japanese start to discus me or foreigners in general when I enter a bus. I also don’t like the term.

    The term is a mixed bag though. Often foreigners themselves will use it and foreign media like the kami-sama awful film “Tokyo Drift” used the term with abandon.

    One Film quote about the “Gaijin” was from Tom Selek’s “Mr Baseball”, where a black player in Japan said to him:

    “(Being a Gaijin) is like being a black person…except there is a whole lot less of us (here in Japan)”.

    For more info on the debate, try these links:

    1/ Wiki’s say on the matter in English:

    (BTW, rumour has it that the Japanese language entry about the term is more nationalistic and possibly racist, but attempts to change the entry have been met with hostile re-edits from several Japanese nationalists who keep watch over it)

    2/ Debito. is a naturalised Japanese who comes from the USA. He has written many essays on foreigners and human rights in Japan, including whether the term is ok to use:


    Hope this adds something to the debate

  95. 95 primal convoy in Japan
    January 13, 2009 at 13:43

    Oh, BTW, another great linking example from Japan to the whole Princely debate is here:


    It concerned the problem a while back about a Japanese Princess not being able to bear a male heir to the Japanese throne, and the question of whether a female Emperor be allowed. The following was lifted from the link above:

    “Former Trade Minister Takeo Hiranuma told supporters that the move could dilute the imperial line if Princess Aiko married and had children with “a blue-eyed foreigner”. ”

    The main point is that, unlike our own Royal family, who, whether encouraged or not to, are at least allowed to marry foreign royal members to strengthen diplomatic ties, Japanese royals are actively discouraged from marrying outside “pure Japanese stock”.

    At least Harry could, at a stretch, “marry a Paki” (sic). That’s something to be proud of (the inter-marriage between foreign royals, and not the racist term I just typed, obviously).

  96. 96 steve
    January 13, 2009 at 13:44

    @ Primal Convoy

    Japan doesn’t have the political correctness like we do in the west. I’m absolutely shocked (and I’m no fan of political correctness) that they would have someone get into blackface and sing like Louis Armstrong on a TV show..

  97. 97 Kelly, from Chicago, IL, USA
    January 13, 2009 at 18:02

    I’m listening to the podcast and I’m disappointed that the WHYS representative made a point of saying that the racist terms in question would be used and that we were all adults, but one of the commentators was threatened with having his volume reduced if he didn’t stop using the word. It appeared that this threat was made because the man was Indian, even though he made a point of specifying that he includes himself in the term Paki, as used by the British. I find that threat of censorship rather racist and disappointing, though overall I think the WHYS team did a good job of moderating in this episode.

  98. 98 ~Dennis Junior~
    January 14, 2009 at 03:00

    Are there some words that we should never use outright?
    Yes, there some words that should NEVER been used, And, I will NOT be saying them here…..

    Or some words that it’s okay to use if you’re from a particular background?
    Depends on the situation….We all can speak in semi-formal way, to each other..

    ~Dennis Junior~

  99. 99 Tim Radke
    January 14, 2009 at 08:00

    People in certain positions such as the royal family have an obligation to watch what they say or accept the consequences. I am a teacher I am fully aware of anything that I say can be repeated by my students to a wide array of critical consumers. Therefore, I don’t say things that I wouldn’t say to my student’s parents. my principal, etc. I may make jokes with close friends but otherwise I know I need to be careful, the Royal family should know as much.

  100. 100 Nwamaka Chude-Onwurah
    January 14, 2009 at 12:52

    When people use even simple languages in a manner that diminishe the worth of another, it becomes unacceptable. These words could refer to their religion, race/ethnicity, socio-political leanings or even experiences of the past. We should learn and also teach others to understand and respect other people’s feelings.

  101. 101 Lawrence
    January 15, 2009 at 06:10

    British = Brits
    Austalian = Aussies
    New Zealender = Kiwis
    English = Pommies
    American = Yanks
    French = Frenchies
    Japannies = Japs
    Yet calling a Pakistani a Paki is offensive. What utter stupidity. Political correctness is making the UK like a police state, like the USSR during Stalin.

  102. 102 ben's younger brother
    January 15, 2009 at 23:30

    I am fed up with public figures saying that ‘ this is wrong’: this is double pc ( cause they feel it is safest to say it but I doubt they feel it )

    Down with primary and double pc!

    Nicknames are for friends. ‘Paki’ is the same as ‘Brit’, ‘Aussie’ etc. What Prince Harry said was affectionate.

    He seems to me a fine young man and I am very proud of him.

  103. 103 Argus
    January 16, 2009 at 12:03

    Lawrence January 15, 2009 at 06:10

    British = Brits
    American = Yanks
    American=scallywag (or what?)

  104. 104 JOhn in Germany
    January 16, 2009 at 12:40

    Hi Bens younger Brother. Just my sentiments.

    Not calling names-But- In Duisburg Police will be Charged for Removing a Jewish Flag from a balcony, it appears that some Palestinians and sympathetic followers were Demonstrating against the Gazza problem. and the flag upset them.

    So you can see how this whole problem has escalated, minorities mumble, and very legal actions as showing the flag has become a political problem.
    The demonstrators should consider themselves lucky as guests in a land, to be allowed to demonstrate. They love our social system, our medical services. Many are integrated, and because of this are usually quiet in voicing propaganda. There are however some that use the social system to the limits, and still abuse the Hosts.

    I find it relieving that many Pakistani leaders have backed Harry. and not tried to jump onto the propaganda band wagon.

    Good old World.

    John in Germany

  105. 105 Lian khan muan
    January 21, 2009 at 09:28

    I am a PAITE, and from the north-eastern part of India. People in the other parts of the country call us ‘chinky’ which is racism and offensive. They display their racism here, there, everywhere and no’ne of them ever have the guts to say ‘Hey, that’s dirty’. Sometimes I wonder if these people have parents or at least conscience.

  106. 106 Ocelotenn
    January 31, 2009 at 20:06

    Too much bullshit…. but there are some people here which are conscious of the gradual spoiling of this civilization…

    How many of you really knows how it feels when you are walkind down on a Uk street and a bunch of kids pass by and call you names only because you are not blond or you just look like something they do not what it tis? Another day, a car passed by me when I was going for a dinner, and a kid did call me names out loud and the adult inside that vehicle was loughing….

    You know what? I am Brazilian….I am not Arab at all…I am not Jewish…I am not African…I am not Pakistani….

    The conclusion is that in America, in the Uk, and in many other coutries the discrimination has growing freeely, especially among young people…The signs are of a deeply spoiling society. Ridiculous….

    Mos of the talks and words I saw in this dicusssion are empty. People try to defend this and that, make lighter heavy things…and I am not defending the Politicaly Correct issues…

    I want to be respected as a person, specially when I am payng to stay, to eat, to buy, to do what I want to do….(busyness is busyness, wright? money is all that matters in your societies…)

    Discrimination hits you more heavly when you are in a so called “civilized” society. These socyeties seems to be increasingly incorporating this type of low-rate, medieval behaviour and values……

    Just that: too bad.

    Too sad…and most of this comes from people unware of their “great” contribution to transform this planet in bad, very bad place….

  107. 107 H. Bakr
    February 2, 2009 at 23:33

    Whenever the word is spoken by someone whose history shows contempt for the history and/or culture of those to whom the word is directed. Some would disagree, but let the “other person” redirect a comparable word of slight back at “the first speaker” and watch how quickly SPEAKER ONE becomes angry and offended!!!

    Someone once said: “Great Minds speak about IDEAS; and small minds talk about other people”.

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