Friday, 21 November 2014

Talking About Our Generation

I'm sixty-one now and grew up at a time when you were very lucky if you had a phone that plugged into a socket in the wall at home never mind a phone in your pocket on which you could tell the whole world what you were thinking instantly wherever you were, 24 hours a day 7 days a week. So, despite being fairly up to date with all the very latest gadgets and social media, I do sometimes worry about the storms of outrage that are kicked up on Twitter and other sites up when  people of our generation get things wrong. 

It's embarrassing to admit it today but, when I was a kid, children of mixed race were referred to as "coloured" by everybody. That's why I was not in the slightest bit shocked when Alan Hansen used the term on Match of The Day. He was not being racist but simply using a term that he had grown up with.

I was recently told in no uncertain terms that I must never use the word "negro" but, again, it was commonplace in our formative years and, indeed, in one of the world's most famous speeches ever, Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" he used the word Negro no less than sixteen times - not once in a critical or derogatory way - that's the way it was.

So what's all this leading to and why is it relevant today? Well, I was reading the sports pages in The Times and it reported that Mr Whelan of Wigan is in big trouble for being derogatory about Jews and Chinese. I have read his comments on Jews and they are indeed, extremely derogatory and he should have whatever book the FA can find thrown at him for them. However, his reference to Chinese as "Chinks", which, I know, looks completely wrong today, should be taken in the context of his generation.

In 1970 multiracial group Blue Mink stormed the charts with Melting Pot. This was an anti-racist anthem which encouraged the world to join together in a gigantic melting pot and, in doing so, eradicate racism and prejudice for ever. And what did they, in all innocence, call the Chinese in this song? You guessed. You can check it out below.

Or if you haven't got time here are the relevant lyrics

Take a pinch of white man
Wrap it up in black skin
Add a touch of blue blood
And a little bitty bit of Red Indian boy

Curly Latin kinkies
Mixed with yellow Chinkees
If you lump it all together
Well, you got a recipe for a get along scene
Oh, what a beautiful dream

If it could only come true, you know, you know

So, when you have a go at us oldies for sometimes saying the wrong things, bear in mind that when we were growing up this was an ultra-liberal and progressive song - let's get the Whelan quotes in perspective (he'll be 78 next week) . And yes, I just noticed the Red Indian bit in the lyrics too!