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    Is race hate speech always race hate speech?

    Is it ever ok to use the ‘N’ word, ‘P’ word, ‘Y’ word? Can a community ‘reclaim’ a word that has been used against them in the past as a term of abuse? Do you and your staff agree with David Cameron that using the word is ok if its use is not motivated by hate?

    David Cameron became embroiled in a race row over Tottenham Hotspur football club’s use of the ‘Y’ word as a chant. The club have regularly been subjected to anti-Semitic abuse, but the Prime Minister said ‘hate speech should be prosecuted, but only when it’s motivated by hate.’ Some people have argued that fans, who also chant, have simply reclaimed the word, and it is part of their identity.

    However, not everyone agrees. The Footballers Association made a statement warning fans chanting the word  ‘Y’ word that they could face criminal charges and long banning orders. The charity Community Security Trust, which advises Jewish groups on security, said the use of the ‘Y’ word ‘remains an offensive word that can upset many Jews both inside and outside the football context’.

    In 2011, footballs top stars made a video addressing the continuing use of the ‘Y’ word at football matches. Gary Linnekar, on the video, says ‘back in the 1930s and 1940s, Jewish people all over Europe were being rounded up and killed. People called them Yxxx’. Another commentator on the video said that ‘once you know something causes offence, surely then you should stop using it’. As a Jew, the Y word is on par with the N word and the P word’.To see a BBC report with clips from the video, click here

    David Baddiel, a Jewish comedian, criticised the Prime minister, accusing him of not allowing the ‘N’ word or the ‘P’ word to pass his lips. ‘Why is it different for the ‘Y’ word? I want to feel, as a Jew, that race hate language about my race is given the same thought and significance and protection’.

    My thoughts; David Cameron seems to have missed the point. The issue is not about the context or people’s motivation. The issue is about impact, intentional or otherwise. While progress has been made, we still have a long way to go to achieve genuine racial equality, and language has an important part to play in moving forward.

    In September 2013, Runnymede launched the ‘End Racism This Generation’ campaign, calling on individuals, businesses and organisations to take specific actions to tackle racial inequality that still exists in the UK. No one person or organisation can achieve this by themselves but together we can end it. Join the movement to end racism today, making your pledge on the End Racism This Generation website.

    To visit the website, click here

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