When Meaning Is Lost Then So Surely Is The Argument?
Racism is a complex issue. It is somewhat of a buzz word in the football community at the minute and with more issues surfacing on a seemingly weekly basis, it is a subject that has gained wide spread coverage in the media of late.
The latest media saturated story is the Tottenham fan’s chanting of the word “Yid”, a term considered a racial slur towards those of Jewish faith. It has emerged that the chairman of The Society of Black Lawyers, Peter Herbert has publically condemned the use of the word in any form, and threatens to take his and the SBL’s concerns to the police. If Tottenham fans refuse to accept that it is a racist offence, they could be prosecuted under the Public Order Act in court as John Terry was.
Tottenham claim the term was originally used as a defence mechanism against racist chanting from opposition fans. The Spurs faithful showed support for their history of Jewish fans by re-assembling the insult into a rallying cry, and from their perspective switching any negative connotations to more positive associations.
Comedian David Baddiel, a Jewish Chelsea fan, supports the position of the SBL and suggests any use of the term only serves to increase negative, racial ideology who states that “Although Spurs fans consider they are just responding to racist taunts, the continuing use of the Y-word by Spurs fans informs and sustains the racist abuse aimed at Spurs by other fans”. Baddiel made a video that proves the use of racist chanting against Tottenham fans and believes it proves the use of the word should be stamped out across the board.
There is no doubt whatsoever that any form of racist chanting in football needs to be dealt with. First and foremost, it’s illegal, it’s ugly and it is tarnishing the image of the sport. But are Tottenham fans actually being racist? Chanting ‘Yid Army’ is not intended to be offensive, but though their intentions may be harmless there are still people who could be offended by the use of the word.
The practicalities, however, of prosecuting 10,000 people all chanting the same thing is obviously limited. If The Society of Black Lawyers intends to report every offending Spurs fan individually until the chants stop, then so be it but I can’t help thing that would be a complete misapplication of valuable social resources. For me if the SBL is going to prosecute those using the word ‘Yid’ they should start with those intentionally using it as an offensive term.
What is the answer then? How do we make sure this word is not only stopped from being used a taunt for Tottenham fans, and from being interpreted by the Jewish community as an insult from Tottenham fans? Honestly, I don’t know. I have little experience in social reform and complex racial discourse. The term ‘yid’ is an abbreviation of the word Yiddish, a language used by many orthodox Jews around the world, but its meaning is obviously ignored in all contexts of these football chants.
The front page of the Leicester Mercury from Wednesday 7th November reads ‘Footballers Subjected to Racial Abuse During Game’. The team was Leicester Nirvana FC, and under-15 side playing away at Blaby and Whetsone BC FC. Many readers will be completely unaware of these teams. They are just local sides from different areas of Leicestershire.
To think that these kids have been subject to ‘monkey noises and offensive gestures’ is upsetting. It shows that there is a problem at the very grass roots of our society not just our football community.