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Jiggers With Attitude

Stuart Bailie | 18:35 UK time, Friday, 8 June 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgThe Big Brother debate over the ’n’ word shows how critical the context of a word is. Used by the likes of Chuck D from Public Enemy, the word is a spear sharpened at both ends, jibing and provoking and forcing the listener to see a long history of subjugation and common pain. But when the speaker is a blonde and mildly posh 19 year from Bristol - former slavery centre of the Empire - people aren’t happy.

The closest thing we’ve got to it here is the term Paddy. Again there’s a history there – a long tradition of repellent Bernard Manning jokes, calling us thick and uncultured and deserving of colonial abuse. I remember the first time an English guy called me Paddy. I was working as a post boy in a computer firm in Whitechapel when he saluted me in the lift with this name. And while he wasn’t actively malicious, I was furious. All of my individuality had been stripped away. I had become generic in his eyes. By the end of a very short journey, he had been encouraged to say sorry.

A few years later and a cool T-shirt arrived in London. It was all green apart from three huge letters: P.W.A. Music biz people, in particular the Irish crowd (sometimes referred to as The Murphia) knew that it stood for Paddies With Attitude. It became such a popular item that U2 bassist Adam Clayton wore his onstage, with pride. And he’s basically an Anglo. But hey, there was some dispensation involved.

If in doubt, bury the racial insults. Sly Stone who led an amazing, multi-cultural act The Family Stone expressed it thus: “Don’t call me nigger, whitey/ don’t call me whitey, nigger.” Amen.

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