IN a world covered with labels, a misinterpretation of what constitutes political correctness can destroy a politician – something that almost happened to Gerry Adams after he wrote about the film Django Unchained.
As a story dealing with black slaves in the southern states of the USA, Adams thought he saw a parallel between the way the British treated Irish nationalists in his neck of the woods and the horrors of American slavery. And, as tweeting enthusiasts are wont to do, he used social media shorthand to get his point across, unleashing in the process allegations of racism because of his use of the word ‘nigger’.
‘Django – an uppity Fenian! A Ballymurphy nigger!’ he tweeted and, within seconds, the stuff hit the fan when his political enemies and a reactionary media denounced him for uttering something that was considered terribly hostile to multiculturalism.
Salivating at the prospect of doing in Adams, the meeja sanctimoniously yelped that his use of the ‘N-word’ was offensive to a particular group, namely black people. In their depiction of him as a born-again racist, they gleefully had him over a barrel.
Indeed, the sight of almost the entire Third Estate lining up to accuse him of using the most racially-offensive word in the English language was extraordinary.
They proclaimed that, since the 18th century, the word ‘nigger’ inferred inequality, discrimination and contempt for black or dark-skinned people and that Adams chose to ignore the fact.
Was it racist?
Yet, on closer analysis, it turned out that the political sin committed by Adams was nothing more than tweeting a three-word phrase which implied that the North’s history of political, social, religious and economic discrimination was similar to that experienced by black people in the southern states of America.
His association of slavery with Ballymurphy was not as far-fetched as it seemed, particularly when the systematic dehumanisation of nationalists over three centuries is factored in, and that every July the ghastly Orange Order celebrates Loyalist and British triumphalism.
So, taking into consideration the sectarianism and prejudice that Northerners went through, surely he’s entitled to make a comparison with the suffering of black slaves a hundred years ago? The question is was it racist to do so?
Because it’s difficult to comprehend how his use of the word ‘nigger’ – a word mentioned throughout the film Django Unchained – could abruptly metamorphose him into a frenzied racist. Was not this the man that the Mandela family and South African Government invited to carry Nelson Mandela’s coffin?
Nor is it without significance that during Civil Rights marches in the Six Counties, nationalists such as Adams referred to themselves as Northern Negroes and modelled their demonstrations on the Selma to Montgomery march.
The fact is there was nothing pejorative or derogatory in the tweet ‘Watching Django Unchained – A Ballymurphy Nigger.’ Rather the comment was an expression of Ballymurphy solidarity with the anti-racist theme that featured in the movie.
But as far as the hacks and reptiles were concerned, it was a golden opportunity to destroy Adams. Finally, The Guardian newspaper introduced some commonsense into the contrived controversy. It declared Adams was not a racist. Racism, it said, was a system of oppression that should not be reduced to a series of gaffes.
An indication of the bizarre nature of the shenanigans was the question from a prim RTE News interviewer as to whether he had been drinking when he wrote the tweet. A chap writing for The Irish Times commented that it was ‘an obvious question.’
The same fella also was certain that ‘eyebrows would be raised’ among SF’s ‘crucial fundraising audience in the US’ and he sarcastically advised Adams that his online ‘blunder’ was one more in a series of ‘brain freezes’!
It was time for the Northerner to go, he opined. To which we say: Gawd bless The Irish Times for objectivity!
Interesting too that the word ‘nigga’ does not invoke the same opprobrium as ‘nigger.’ It even has jocular resonances as was evident at the recent dinner hosted by President Obama for the political media.
Included among the guests was a well-known satirist, a Mr Wilmore, who enthused about the fact that ‘a black man could lead the entire free world.’ Turning to the president, he said, ‘And you did it, my nigga.’
The comment appalled The Washington Post, but on the following day a White House press secretary said the President ‘appreciated the spirit of the sentiments that Mr Wilmore expressed.’
Indeed, the pillorying of Adams was in sharp contrast to the discreet veil that a pliant media drew over Enda Kenny’s appalling ‘nigga’ joke some years ago. The joke referred to a Moroccan with ‘shiny teeth,’ and a Lumumba cocktail that got its name from ‘some nigger killed in a war.’ Once details of the unfunny story leaked, Kenny issued a profuse apology. And that was it! Forgotten!
So, in response to Adams’s disputatious language, we would like to offer some advice that would assist politicos in the use of politically correct English.
For example, to ensure a terminology absolutely devoid of racist connotation, politicos should avoid describing Sinn Feiners as ‘blackguards’ who deserve a ‘black eye’ for ‘blackening’ Irish politics. They should never depict his party as ‘black hearted,’ of having a ‘black outlook’ or of committing ‘black deeds’.
Words such as ‘blackmail,’ ‘blacklist,’ ‘black sheep,’ ‘blackcurrant,’ ‘blackbird,’ ‘blackout,’ ‘blacksmith’ or phrases such as seeing things in ‘black and white’ are all verboten. And, as for ‘calling a spade a spade,’ well, forget it if they want to stay on good terms with the mandarins of good taste and fair play in the Indo/Sindo and Irish Times.
Politicos also should avoid terms such as ‘non-white’ when referring to other races because the phrase makes whiteness the standard against which everything else is measured. The expression ‘a white lie’ is taboo for the same reason, as is ‘tribal.’
On the other hand, FG and Labour have enhanced the value of some words that most of us consider vile. For instance the C-word entered the political lexicon after Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan appeared to refer to SF as such when he left the ‘n’ out of the word ‘cult’ during a Twitter exchange with Pádraig MacLochlainn.
The F-word, of course, is de rigueur for our parliamentarians. Former labour Environment Minister Alan Kelly allegedly told Mattie McGrath to ‘f*** off’ during a debate on water charges, although the minister later insisted he didn’t remember making the claim but said: ‘if I did so I withdraw it and apologise.’
But the most impressive foul-mouthed rant of all was that of Government TD Paul Gogarty, who roared: ‘F*** you Deputy Stagg. F*** you.’ He, too, apologised.
As our man in Dinty’s wisely said: ‘politicians should never gobblefunk with words!’