As I sat watching the news I was saddened to see the video footage of Prince Harry using the term "Paki friend" to describe a colleague of his in the army. I expected more from the Royal Family — but I have since been even more distressed by the number of 'enlightened' people who have come out to defend his choice of words.
Repeated assertions were made by various voices saying that his words were taken out of context, that he meant them as a term of affection and that if the people who were complaining about the incident watched the video they would feel differently about the matter. Well, I have watched the video many times and I am not feeling any better about it.
On the morning debate show, The Wright Stuff, presenter Matthew Wright posed the question: "What did Prince Harry have to apologise for?" Wright went on to suggest the real villain of this story was person who flogged the video and that it was a shame that this incident would overshadow the charity work Prince Harry had done in Africa. Granted, the person who "flogged" the video would have had his own financial motives for doing so and Prince Harry may have meant the term "affectionately", but the fact that Write bandied the term "Paki" about as if he were spraying the room with vanilla scented air freshener showed that he had failed to understand the term.
"Paki", in the UK, has a history steeped in racism by the thugs who use it to cut off at the knees any person with skin darker than a bed sheet. Trying to polish over the deep insult by declaring it as, just, "an abbreviation of the word Pakistani" is dismissing the experiences of generations of Asians who have had to endure that word in a myriad of awful circumstances.
Those who defend it have, clearly, have never had to walk down the road, like me, only to hear "Fuck off back to where you came from you Paki" screamed at them from the other side of the street, or, at school, had it bellowed in their face as they were beaten up and spat at. They weren't shop owners who had to wash the bile-filled word from their walls and their families didn't hear it shouted at them as eggs and other missiles were thrown at their windows.
For British Asians, those days were filled with a fear of the vitriol directed at them for being different and the word 'Paki' is symbolic of that hatred. This fear was later replaced by relief when Britain, as a nation, began to understand how a mere word could be used to cruelly put down a people and began to strike it from our vocabulary. The re-emergence of the word and, worse still, the defence of it has brought back harsh memories of the bad old days. It breaks my heart to think that our understanding of why "Paki" should never be made an acceptable term in the English language has not yet been fully comprehended.
The silence of Ahmed Raza Khan, the Prince's army colleague in question, is irrelevant, as is the fact that Harry's offending video diary was made three years ago, as is the notion that the comment was, as said in a statement made by a spokesperson for the Royals that it was, "made without malice".
I have found myself in situations where people I consider to be friends have used the word in this way but that doesn't mean that the very sound of it didn't cut like a knife. I have also been guilty of keeping my silence at those times. But that, certainly, did not mean that I was happy for the word to be used; it simply meant that I realised the person using it was a victim of their own stupidity and thought that if they chose to use language that would gain approval from ignorant thugs and members of the racist British National Party then that was their own folly.
I am not concerned about the type of punishment Prince Harry should receive for what may have been an error of judgement, but I do have grave reservations about is the subsequent rush to try and play down the nastiness of the word that was used. No amount of mollifying from an all-white panel on a day time Tv show, or any other such programme, can change that.
* See also what the Editor thinks of the 'N' word