18 Oct 2013

Roy Hodgson should choose his words more carefully

As black journalists, we have a responsibility to try and interpret public debates about race, racial identity, and racism in an informed and informative manner.

It is right to say no-one can know what Roy Hodgson meant, other than Hodgson himself. But at the same time, we can draw on decades, if not centuries, of academic and popular discourse on why language is so heavily and inevitably loaded, whatever the intent.

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We can also talk experientially of the impact a word like “monkey” has when used in the context of football and black players. Let us not forget, nobody is accusing Roy Hodgson of racism.

He is not a racist. He is a very good football manager. He has just managed to qualify England for the World Cup finals with a team of multiracial Englishmen who are all proud to play for their country.

But we cannot escape the fact that the words he used on Tuesday, while intending to perform an honourable function and motivate his team, have a hinterland.

And it is the responsibility of every English person, indeed, every Briton – all of us, journalists, too – to talk about this in an intelligent and informed way, without blame, just desire to understand.

Andros is a star, but not a ‘space monkey’ – read more from Keme Nzerem

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3 reader comments

  1. Andy Martyr-Icke says:

    Oh FFS!
    NASA did send monkeys into space! It’s a joke. Nothing more.
    People that see racism where there is none are as guilty of perpetuating it’s existence as racists.

  2. A Lone Response says:

    Excellent … apart from just a single, polite term that you’ve used in describing the England team: “multiracial” … Does that term not substantiate/prolong the problematic (arguably racist) misconception that people of different ‘colours’ are distinct races (when there’s really just ‘the human race’)?

  3. Philip Edwards says:

    Keme,

    I agree…..we should ALL choose our words carefully, especially if it is in danger of being tinged with casual racism – which often is much worse in its drip-drip affect.

    But at the same time it behoves us ALL not to get so far up ourselves we can scratch our ear from the inside.

    There are times to be rigorous. After centuries of racist muck I think we can safely say this wasn’t one of them.

    Let’s move on to the World Cup and hope ALL the players perform this time round. And that applies whether the player is black, white, blue, red, yellow or purple with green spots.

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