This post is an appendix to yesterday’s article regarding Spurs’ continued chanting of the word ‘Yid’ and the campaigning of David Baddiel to have it banished from football grounds.
Having sent the post to Mr Baddiel last night, I was tweeted back by him on several occasions as well as receiving a personal e-mail to the blog by a ‘DB’ from a Kick It Out address which I assume came from him. The messages I received aimed to pull apart the arguments I make regarding the ‘Yid’ issue with links provided to further bolster his stance. I have written a response to the points he raises, but the e-mail has repeatedly bounced back. Twitter, being the virtual school playground it is, does not lend itself to rational discourse. Its limits on the amount of characters one can use, does not allow for reasoned debate and there is a danger that such an endeavour could end up falling into a round of verbal tennis that does little to present anyone in a good light.
Therefore, I would like to address the three main complaints Mr Baddiel has against my argument via this forum as I believe it to be the most appropriate method in order to fully articulate my response, having already attempted and failed to engage with him further.
On the issue of ‘blacking up’ and Jason Lee: Mr Baddiel points me towards The Guardian’s letters page in which somebody else raises a similar point. Responding, Baddiel lists a succession of comedians who have done the same thing in the past and makes the legitimate point that despite this, they are entitled to have strong views on racism. I fully accept that humour is a very subjective device; you cannot control who or what makes you laugh. At its very best, it challenges taboos. However, can somebody watching such a caricature not feel slightly uneasy about how it is executed? It’s fair to say that we have moved on from the days of broad generalisations of race as performed by entertainers such as Al Jolson and The Black And White Minstrel Show. How do we feel about white actors playing Othello these days? Mr Baddiel more or less admits as much when he states: “Let’s say….it was deeply, deeply wrong. Perhaps it was.”
Moreover, Jason Lee himself has described in detail during a BBC sport interview in 2007 how much the sketches and the chant that they produced affected him:
“It started to feel personal. I can take a joke but I’ve got family and friends who got defensive and it was hard for them to come to games to listen to it and I felt bad for them.”
If nothing else, the “Pineapple On His Head” skit is tantamount to bullying. As a teacher, who witnesses the destructive effects of this on a daily basis, I cannot condone this on any level. I would not expect that of my students and I most certainly would not expect that of anyone in a prominent position in public life. Whether it was racist is a matter of opinion and taste. Whether it was bullying, is not. Mr Baddiel himself in his defence says: “I believe two of them don’t actually make a right.”
On the issue of the word ‘Yid’ as used by blackshirts in thrall to Oswald Mosley: Mr Baddiel attached a link to a biography on Mosley by Nigel Jones with the phrase “get rid of the Yids” highlighted. To my mind, it is not the word “Yid” that creates a case for race hatred, it is the words that precede it that cause the damage and are justifiably repugnant.
On the comparison between the ‘N-word’ and ‘Yid’ – ‘DB’ in his e-mail to me (I am happy to share its contents, feel free to mail me directly), points me to the Wikipedia page which explains the etymology of the ‘N-word’. He points out that it too was “not originally a race hate word”. I looked at both this page and the one defining ‘Yid’ before writing my original piece and I still believe that both words are not of an equal standing. It clearly states on Wikipedia that Yiddish-speaking Jews freely used this word with each other. Its origins lie within the community itself. The ‘N-word’, however benign its original use was, was not used by black people themselves. That is the key and defining difference and it was right for them to re-appropriate the word for themselves. There are all manner of vile stereotypes that Jewish people have to suffer but ‘Yid’, whichever way you look at it, simply does not have the cultural baggage of other words.
However much I am politically opposed to the Prime Minister, he was within his rights to use the word in his interview with The Jewish Chronicle last week. He broke no laws. He would have been prepped by his advisors and lawyers before the word even left his mouth. It is categorically NOT the ‘N-word’. The primary reason for this is because ‘Yid’ is not considered a racial term as it is associated with faith, not race – and that is why Mr Cameron was able to use it so freely. The ‘N-word’ however, is very much a racial term.
I’m deeply saddened that Mr Baddiel has had to experience dreadful anti-Semitism throughout the years at Chelsea. But I still don’t understand how Spurs’ chanting affects this. He probably has two options. Either stop attending matches at Stamford Bridge or consider converting to another team. Maybe one in North London. We’re a very embracing club, after all. However taboo, that’s something people can do. Sidenote: Is football a religion then?
I do not have the advantage of over 300,000 followers on Twitter. I don’t have years of experience of working in the media or having to think quickly on my feet in comedy clubs. I have this blog, a couple of thousand regular readers and my ideas. I tried getting in touch with Mr Baddiel but to no avail but if he happens to read this, I’d be more than happy to have him leave a comment on here. Let’s have an open and rational debate about this. All of us.
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