Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Racist remarks - The Princes and I

The Royal family is once again on the headlines for the wrong reasons. A video clip made by one of Prince Harry's mate shows Price Harry creeping up to a Pakistani fellow Sandhurst colleague and muttered the words "our Paki friend". The mate, whom I'm sure is no longer with speaking terms with the Prince, promptly sold the clip to the media.

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Two issues here - the clip was three years old and "Paki" is apparently an offensive word for Pakistanis. Now, you would think that his father (like all normal fathers do) would promptly come to his rescue. Interestingly, Prince Charles did that by drawing attention to himself when it emerged that one of his Asian friend whom he regularly played polo with is "affectionately" called "Sooty" by him.

Did that help matters? Certainly not. But that seems to help remove some of heat from PM Gordan Brown coming from the financial turmoil enveloping the UK. The tussle between Israelis and Palestinians is relegated to the sidelines. Credit crunch? What's that? Let's all argue about how the Princes should apologize to the nation and the Asians in particularly the Pakistanis.
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Curiously, even though Singapore is physically closer to Pakistan, I've never heard of the term "Paki". Even then, it is really just a word. If you allow a word to lower your self esteem, whose fault is it then? Really, we should be looking at the rationale of the person who muttered the word, if the person meant it to be offensive, it will be regardless of the choice of words.

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A former colleague of mine (an ethnic Chinese) recalled that she was called a "chink" when she worked in London in the 80's. Not knowing that it was supposed to be a degradatory term for the Chinese, she just ignored the remark. In fact, it was only years later that she realised it. Would it have mattered if she had known the connotation behind the word back then? Perhaps. But we did laugh it off when she recounted the experience to me.

Bottom line, it's really an issue between two individuals when it comes to remarks perceived as offensive. A sincere private apology would do just fine. To think that some are demanding that Price Harry goes to apologize to the world on TV for a word mouthed three years ago, which was recorded down on video meant for private consumption is utter rubbish.

I, for one, would prefer watching Doctor Who instead of that.

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13 comments:

Thomas said...

The prince was an idiot for saying it, and the "friend" is not much of a friend anyway. Sitting on the tape for 3 years? What, did he come onto hard times and he needs money?

A. said...

From my point of view, the worrying thing is not what he meant when he said it, but that he said it at all. This is a young man who has been brought up from birth, knowing his position in life and being taught all there is to know about the correct way for the Royal Family to behave. It should be second nature by now, and if he can't remember those basics, he shouldn't be in charge of anyone in the army, or anywhere else he can make important decisions.

The term Paki is insulting because of its connotations with the term "Paki bashing", a skinhead pastime of attacking anyone perceived to be Pakistani.

Martin in Bulgaria said...

Typical British going over the top in corrections in language on morale grounds. A prime example of this is teachers who can't use the word 'blackboard' (which incidently have been the correct word for a blockboard for centuries) in schools because it offends people who are 'brown'!

It makes me laugh that they can allow the use the word whiteboard, even though, allegedly, this could offend people who are pink!!

Bloody ridiculous.

SheR. said...

Racism is a very delicate issue and especially when the words come from a member of the distinguished Royal Family.

I would take offence even if anyone muttered the word "Chinese" to me. Even if the word itself meant nothing to most people, the person who uttered the word to you meant it to be offensive. Deeming people of certain nationality as less than themselves even in terms of mental ability.

Yeah.. don't try any racist remarks on me. Because you will get more than just a demand for apology on a media. :P

Angie R said...

Your post reminds me - once I was at a very formal black tie dinner party sitting with a big bunch of male guests from Hong Kong. I started calling them Hongkies without knowing that it's considered rude for Hongkies to be called Hongkies.

Bottom line is - sometimes we may utter something totally inappropriate but we really don't mean what we say. But to those on the receiving end - Ouch, it hurts like hell.

Great post.

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Dutchie said...

Last time our crown prince made a faux pas siding with the Videla Regime in Argentina (he was abt to wed the daughter of the former Agri minister from the 1960's), he got chewed publically by our PM. There was an overkill in the media n I do pity the guy bec he didnt see it coming. I think that every little mistakes he's made r abused by the media n captured on film for reruns whenever he's the centre of discussion. It must be a nightmare to see that of urself on the TV hundreds of times n re-living that awful moment ! Give him a break, he is a human like us who makes mistakes. Like the bible says "let the man who is without sin, cast the first stone"!

nightcabcontroller said...

Racism is in the eye of the beholder...Please remember the power of words , and their ability to wound and shape people's perceptions of themselves.
For centuries some elements in U.K. society have used derogatory terms to reinforce their self-ascribed role as masters of the world...
The world has changed, let us all change with it.

MamaFlo said...

Terms are derogatory if said in that light and meant to be hateful.
Obviously Harry learned from example.

yoongz said...

Paki & chink are both words which are considered offensive because of the history behind their usages - if we know that & understand that, then we should avoid using these words whether we are royalty or not. But i do think that the British media has a tendency to blow things out of proportion.

EastCoastLife said...

I don't know what Paki means but I would get offended if I am called a chink.

My Bug Life said...

I agree with A. It's unfortunate that his mistake was exposed this way!

C K said...

@Thomas,
I'm not too sure about that. Considering he was 20 when he made those remarks. Though I've not seen the clip, I understand that it was obviously not made out of malice. But I agree with you that he should have been more careful.

I think that 'pal' of his sold it the momoent he left the army. Bottomline, avoid making videos that you might regret. Not everyone is a Paris Hilton.


@A.,
Thanks for the info. Like I mentioned, I've never heard of the term 'Paki' much less 'Paki bashing' till it was splashed all over the news.

I wouldn't be surprised that the Queen is giving Prince Harry a hard time now with his perceived insensitive remarks. Honestly, I wouldn't want to be in his position - not being able to do the stuff that a twenty something year old do, especially when he's in the army.

Having spent 2.5 yrs in the army, I know how it's like. It'll be really difficult for a Prince to find acceptance if he continues to behave like a Prince, if you know what I mean.


@Martin,
Now that you mentioned it, I recalled when I first heard of the 'whiteboard' affair. It seems that the most disadvantaged people in the UK are white working class men.


@SheR,
Eh, aren't you an ethnic Chinese? If so, any particular reason why you would be offended if someone refer to you an a 'Chinese'?

I still think that it's the context what a word is used that determines whether it's offensive. Peace!


@Angie,
Agreed. In fact, to be totally sure, I actually asked a New Zealander colleague of mine whether it's ok to call him a Kiwi. It's better to be careful these days...


@Dutchie,
Ouch, that PM did that to score political points. Given a choice, I don't really think anyone would want to be born into a Royal family with the protocols and all. I for one value my freedom quite a bit.


@nightcabcontroller,
Right. But we must be really careful not to overdo it. Somethings can be wrongly construed as insults to race and religion. There was once (a couple of years back), a colleague of mine finds it offensive that I'm eating somthing that is forbidden in his religion. Heck, I was merely sharing a table with him!

At the end of the day, everything must be put into context.


@MamaFlo & My Bug Life,
Agreed. Let's hope that he wouldn't repeat the same mistake twice. :)


@yoongz,
I think the influx of immigrants into the UK has got something to do with it. As the UK becomes a more inclusive society, there are more boundaries that the Britons have to observe.


@ECL,
Really? I didn't even know what a 'chink' is until recently, that is. lol