As a white man, I am not sure I have a right to an opinion on the decision of the BBC to use the actual words directed towards the NHS worker, known as K-Dogg when he was viciously attacked in a racial assault. The attackers were alleged to have referred to K-Dogg was an N-word (I’m not using the word). The BBC received nearly 19.000 complaints and today the BBC head honcho Lord Tony Hall said sorry. But should he have?
In my opinion, the BBC thought they were doing the right thing in pointing out just how vile K-Dogg’s assailants were, both in terms of the physical and verbal violence. I didn’t hear the actual broadcast but my initial reaction – and I have to be honest, here – was that I was more shocked by the words used during the assault than I was by the BBC reporter reporting on the words used. I certainly felt uncomfortable about the use of the N word by a BBC employee, not least because things have changed so much since I was K-Dogg’s age. The N word was in constant use in society. It isn’t now.
The P word, when referring to Pakistanis, is a no no these days, as is the Y word for Jews. That’s because we associate the use of the words with racism. It’s the same with the N word. So, even in reporting a disgusting crime, the Beeb got it wrong. The word belongs to racists and bigots, not public service broadcasters.
I don’t even like it when black rappers use the N word, although I suppose they will say they have taken ownership of it. Who am I to argue, except that it makes me feel very uneasy? I have a good few albums where this is the case, not least the magnificent Straight Outta Compton by NWA. I don’t tend to rap along throughout the album.
Back in 1969, the popular beat combo outfit Blue Mink had a massive hit with a song called Melting Pot, which dreamed of a world where said pot could boil merrily away “for a hundred years or more” after which it would “turn out coffee coloured people by the score.” Looking at the lyrics today, 51 years on, and some seem slightly dodgy but that’s pretty well my dream, too, in a kind of long-term evolutionary way. Of course, you see colours as you go about your life, in the same way you see someone with ginger or silver hair, but you should never judge anyone on the basis of their colour, skin, hair or clothes. A coffee-coloured world will deal with that once and for all.