Thursday, October 30, 2008

Oi Paki!

A Virile Nagalingam left a comment on my McCain post that set some thoughts off, like Diwali fireworks in my head. I'll explain the situation.

Dinidu had left a comment in which he said

"Damn! Honkie has skills!!!"

I think "honkie" is spelled with a "y" on the end but we'll let that one lie, or ly. I suspect that Dinidu left it as an innocuous sort of comment which we're not supposed to think anything too much of. I certainly hadn't, even the post was buried in the nether regions of my memory.

Mr Nagalingam's comment changed all that.

"i suppose if mr. alwis said, "negro has skills!" it would be acceptable as well, correct?" he writes.

Now I don't know Mr Nagalingam (AVN) other than through his comments on my blog but my feeling is that he's merely pointing out an interesting thing; that Dinidu's use of the word "honkie" didn't appear to raise eyebrows but, had he used the word "negro" then all hell may well have broken use. When I say "all hell" I mean it in a blogospherical sense, which has little impact on real life as we all know.

For the sake of clarity I feel a need to point out that, in my experience, Dinidu is about as racist as Mahatma Gandhi or Jean Luc Picard.

But AVN's comment reminded me of a post I've been meaning to write for ages.

As a teenager growing up in the late 70s and 80s in London was interesting at times. It would be nice if I could pretend that I was subjected to racially motivated bullying and attacks every other day, if I could make out that life was tough and my teenage years were one of those Brit / Guy Ritchie type films waiting to be made. Well, it wouldn't be nice but it would be far more interesting than the reality.

The truth is that my teenage years were boringly Brit / Sri Lankan middle class. That all too familiar mix of rice and curry, baila, Uncles and Aunties at weekends and being just like any other white kid in the week, except I wasn't of course. The burning issues for me were mostly centred around whether Debbie Harry would ever sleep with a thirteen year old brown kid. She did, loads of times, she just didn't know about it.

All of a sudden my existence was shattered by the arrival of the National Front, racism and Pakis. Or so it seemed. The fact was my existence wasn't shattered, this was in Richmond and, for anything to be shattered, planning permission was required, forms had to be filled out and hair had to be ruffled slightly. So I suppose it's more accurate to say that my existence was ever so slightly nudged, it wobbled, just a bit.

No, what happened was that a few of the kids at school became "racists". They'd draw National Front symbols on their exercise books, those books that were for subjects taught by teachers who'd allow it of course. They would listen to Ska, ironic for all the obvious reasons, they'd wear DMs and sometimes, very rarely mind, they'd call me or one of the other brown kids a Paki.

At first I was hurt and upset by this. Kids who I'd been friends with for years suddenely turned on me. Then, after some time, I decided to join in. If someone told a Paki joke I'd retaliate by telling two. My method was effective. As we got older and wiser my friends went off to run companies, write books, produce films and TV shows and write award winning books about racism and equality. One bloke went to prison but he's an estate agent now.

The whole name calling thing is strange isn't it? This is the thing I started off thinking before I wandered into the territory of my childhood.

Why is it that Chris Rock can make a stream of nigger jokes and that's okay?

Why is it that I can make loads of jokes to my (white) band mates about how white people can't drum and that's okay, but if one of them made a joke about my skin colour I'd be upset?

Why can Dinidu call John McCain a honkie and it's fine, but if McCain turned up at Dinidu's house and called him a curry eating fuckwit it would probably get him lynched?

Is it because of familiarity?

Is it because it's okay to laugh at our own but it's deemed unnacceptable to mock others?

What do you reckon?

9 comments:

Foxhound said...

Well its to do with the past and associated stigmas.

Simply analogy. It's ok for a women to make a sexist joke or say "Men are pigs"... or "sigh...men!". But if we says "tsk...women!" then it means something else entirely. I can't quite explain it but its there.

I mean I remember this time where a few guys cracked a joke about a woman being in charge... all the girls went quiet.

A Virile Nagalingam said...

I would check out a blogger called Ta-Nehisi Coates over at theatlantic.com, re "why chris rock can tell nigger jokes."

I grew up in 100% rural and white areas, so I feel like somewhat of a lone brown defender of those derided as "whitey" or "Simon Cowell."

Mooo said...

There's a very nice BBC radio production on political correctness by Clive Anderson.. It might interest you..

Sasani said...

I think it's to do with the history of things.
Whenever a white man tells a nigger joke, all those stories of the past and the emotions associated with it starts flooding in. The slavery, the suppresion, human rights, martin luther king etc etc, and we take offence and retaliate.
Same goes for the women, as in sexism.

But suppose you grew up completely ignorant of these historical aspects. Most likely you'd treat a white man's nigger joke according to his beliefs rather than what his race has been associated with in the past.
If that makes sense.

kalusudda said...

I am with AVN, How co9me AA's call each other with N word and accepted and if I am to say the same, get murdered murder of crows decend unpon me (Is that racial?... crows I mean and my avatar is a Raven)
I don't know but I feel sad when I hear they call each other with N word. Gowing up in Holland, I had no trouble but one of my brothers get refered as Molukse, Similar to English Packie.

Java Jones said...

I’m with George Carlin about political correctness. And anyway, using words like ‘honky’ and ‘nigger’ is perfectly acceptable when used in the right context – meaning that no one individual is being ‘insulted’, and it is more of using an expression for humour or a particular ‘style’ of writing or speech.

Sachintha said...

Well I think deep down inside we all got a racist inside us!
It is a matter of how well we can keep that voice there, not allow it to surface.

White people do have racists in them, but most of them do keep them inside. And we browns/blacks also do have those racists inside us, but the difference is in the history, it was the blacks/browns who suffred from the racism most, so that in this age calling them 'nigga' or something similar is considered a lot worse... Just a perception.

It's the same with women - 'cos they have been suffering for ages that it is considered that it's inappropriate to have a go at them.

Neither is necessarily the truth...

TheWhacksteR said...

Its a majority and minority question. and i mean not just about numbers, i mean percieved social power (in the caseof men and women esp.) when the minority drides the majority, a subliminal tendency is togo; 'aww, cute' but when the majority disses the minority its all 'woah now HEY HEY!

chris rock, well he's just too funny, so hes excused. but its generally acceptable to make fun of your own kind fo some reason. Allus brownies for instance LOVE by Russel Peters. at least i do!

A Virile Nagalingam said...

meant to say, thanks for your perspective. I was born in blighty and always thought, had I grown up there, my first school experience would be "Hey paki!" and then a knuckle sandwich.

the difference in treatment for racial abuse is certainly caused by many factors, chiefly society's urge to never argue over the true location of the arsehole but rather the appropriateness of all the adjacent dingleberries.