To quote the great Sir Terry Wogan, “Is it me…??”
Words are a funny old thing. Actually, language is a funny old thing, but as words make up (a part of, along with grammar, etc) language I’m going to stick with words. Take the word of the week for example. Golliwog.
A search at dictionary.com will tell you that it either refers to: “a grotesque black doll” or “a grotesque person.” I do notice that it doesn’t say ‘a grotesque BLACK person.’ but that might just be their way of staying on the right side of the PC brigrade.
The thing is this is an offensive word. Well, it has become an offensive word, originally it was the name of a charactor in a book who happened to be black and as there aren’t a lot of identifible black charactors that are widely known in literature has become symnonomous for all black people. If a person is black they are like the Golliwog. They are different from us (the two Dutch Girl Dolls) and therefore are to be feared… at least until we discover that Golliwog is a really nice person.
I can remember being at school (and therefore all young and innocent) and what would now be terms of abuse were not seen as such. The word “Paki” was used by both Whites and non-Whites as a descriptive term. It was only in later life that the meaning that Older People give to the word meant that it could no longer be used to describe someone of Pakistani descent.
This is the problem with offence. Someone will always take it, (almost) no matterwhat statement you wish to make. Does this mean that we should stop making statments?? Does this mean that we should stop making statements that a certain number of people would find offence at?? Are there groups that we are allowed to offend??
A few years ago there was a big hoo-ha about an opera that the BBC were planning on showing. It was called, Jerry Springer: The Opera and it was the Christian lobby that were getting their knickers in a twist. And this was before it was shown. Now I decided that I would have to know what it was about before deciding if I was going to be offended or not so I watched it and decided that it wasn’t offensive. What was missed was that this wasn’t lampooning Christianity but was lampooning Springer-esq talk shows.
For those that worry whether they may be institutionally rasist (like the guy in The Times today) there is an Implicit Association Test from Harvard University that you can take to see if you do havea preference to Whites over Blacks. It does warn you that you may not like the answers. According to mine I have a “slight automatic preference for Black people compared to White people.” I would disagree with this but hey, I don’t have a Harvard degree.
What I feel does capture the most likely truth is the song, Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist from the musical Avenue Q. Go listen to it.
Go on… I dare you!!