How racist is Britain?
This was in the Guardian today, and follows the author when he lived for six months in Rotherham in south Yorkshire. What he found was that local white and Asian people saw little of each other and that white people commonly called the Asians “Pakis” without apparently intending it as a term of abuse, but rather as “simply a matter-of-fact description of the ethnic origins” of the person referred to.
The article barely touches on the fact that Asians as well as whites use the term, but does not show anything of the extent to which they do. In some sections of the Asian community, particularly among the younger generation, the term is used quite commonly and certainly not as an insult, and a similar term “Guji” exists to mean Gujarati. I was once in a British Pakistani friend’s house and was eating his mother’s food (lots of it) with a Gujarati convert to Islam from Jainism. Referring to the food, he said “I wasn’t cut out to be a Paki”, meaning to eat so much! Nobody took the slightest offence. When my friend said that he was “an English Paki, not a Paki Paki”, his mother did reprimand him though.
I wouldn’t compare it to the “N word”, even though some black Americans have “reclaimed” that term, and even though it’s just a corruption of the Spanish for black, because it has a much longer history and carries particular offence for some people. Even so, I’ve got the impression that some people think they can avoid being offensive simply by avoiding dropping the “N word”; a notable example being Roger Roots’ infamous Hundred Facts and One Lie pamphet which likened black people to apes over and over again, “backing it up” with citations which actually mostly traced back to pro-segregation and otherwise racist tracts. He didn’t use the “N word” either.
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