Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Yid Army vs The Society for Wack Lawyers

The only offensive thing about Tottenham tends to happen on the field. Yet it is not the recent non-performances of ‘AVB’s blue and white army' that have raised the ire of the Society of Black Lawyers. Blue and white…can I say that? Or is the term racially offensive to Smurfs?

According to the Society, Spurs supporters are guilty of anti-semitic abuse at White Hart Lane. Should the word 'Yid' be uttered after their self-imposed November 20th deadline (the first match is somewhat laughably against peace and love merchants West Ham) they are calling for the Metropolitan Police to take action. The Club defended Spurs fans in a strongly-worded statement that can be read here.

Reread the term 'anti-semitic abuse' and one key word should leap out at you…‘abuse’. When Tottenham fans sing ‘Yid Army’ (at away games, I might add) who exactly are they abusing? The non-Jewish, milk white fans of Sunderland or Stoke? You will not see Spurs faces scrunched up with racist anger. The mood is proud and celebratory, defiant. The word Yid was taken back and adopted by Jewish Spurs fans and their sympathisers in the 1970s and worn as a badge against abusers from clubs with a history of racist abuse like Chelsea, West Ham and Millwall. Three clubs whose fan conduct holds less of a concern with 'the Society of Wack Lawyers'. Gas noises from opposing fans or hate-filled ditties about genocide rank lower on their agenda. To directly quote the philosopher Raymond Wilkins, “My word.”

There are parallels elsewhere. The 'N word' was reappropriated by rappers and urban blacks after stepping out of the grim shadow of slavery and years of institutionalised racism. It is featured in virtually every hip hop song in my music collection. It is also regularly parroted in more commercial hip hop and has silently filtered into the mainstream. Will Jay-Z be arrested by decree of the Society on his next visit to London? Perhaps the rap mogul should enjoy an extra bottle of Cristal on his next private jet from New York, just in case.

The key point here is who says it and how it is said. If a black person affectionately uses the 'N word' as a form of endearment to another that is clearly very different to a Nick Griffin wannabe screaming it with hate bulging in his eyes. The term ‘Yid’ is never spoken with hate among Spurs fans, but a sense of camaraderie and affection. I know many Jewish Spurs fans who proudly sing ‘Yid Army’ and refer to themself as a ‘Yid’ - by what token will they be prosecuted? According to the aptly named Peter Herbert, who chairs the Wack Lawyers, "That's not acceptable either." It should be noted that Herbert represented the shoe bomber Richard Reid in a ‘humanitarian capacity’.

The Society of Black Lawyers is an interesting concept. If I formed the Society of White Journalists, I would be swiftly (and perhaps rightly) wrestled to the ground by a mob of outraged Guardian columnists. I find it odd that anyone would wish to define their profession along racial lines. This country does hold a rather skewed outlook on racism. Its definition is too often simplified to ‘white on black’. But it is the abuse of anyone on the basis of their race or ethnicity. Anyone who knows or loves someone from a Chinese or Asian background can tell you that they suffer racist abuse on a daily basis. It’s deeply wrong yet action is rarely taken because the Asian mentality is to ‘get on with it’ and, unlike the Society of Wack Lawyers, they do not have a political agenda or an eye on career advancement.

Selective morality and outrage is rife in Great Britain. It is an extension of the middle class guilt complex where people seem to revel in sitting around and being appalled by everyone else. Even a handful of calls to the Advertising Standards Association (ASA) merits an investigation leading to some quite ludicrous complaints from easily offended people with too much time on their hands.

Recently, an H&M advert featuring a woman wearing a fairly modest bikini on a beach was investigated after a complaint that it was ‘overtly sexual’. Anyone who saw the ad at their local bus stop would have found their mind turning to their summer holiday or an impromptu shopping trip. Yet the case was pursued and unsurprisingly found to be harmless by the ASA, much to the bemusement of H&M and anger of a plain-looking woman in dungarees.

The use of the word Yid by Spurs fans warrants a constructive and reasoned dialogue between Tottenham supporters (in particular those of Jewish heritage), the Club and the wider Jewish community not a grandstanding lawyer. Yet its utterance at White Hart Lane is relative small fry compared to the ignorant racist abuse that takes place unpunished in life and at football. Maybe the woman in dungarees should complain about the disgusting gas noises and Auschwitz chants. People seem to take note of her ravings.

*** On Thursday night, Spurs will host Slovenian Champions NK Maribor in a game that is pivotal to the team’s chances of progression in the Europa League. This game will also mark the 1882 Movement’s invasion of Block J of the Shelf. For one joyous night at least, jeers (and silence) will be replaced with cheers at White Hart Lane. When Block J starts rocking tonight, be inspired and join the @lovetheshirt massive in song. Read more about the movement here. Get involved, people.


Simon said...


Sumeer said...

Great article. I don't understand how the Society has decided it is will start policing football matches to say what is acceptable and not acceptable. I also have no idea why they involved themselves in the Clattenberg case (they weren't there and therefore are making a complaint based on hearsay). Intent is certainly a key element to deciding whether something is racist but also who you are directing it too. If you call yourself the Y word, surely you are not being racist to yourself!
One thing I do understand is why there is a Society for Black Lawyers (and I think in principle this includes all minorities rather than just those of Afro-Caribbean descent) - about 20 years ago, racism within the legal profession was thought (and I'm no expert) to be a significant barrier and the society (presumably) was set up to help tackle this. My layman view is that they have been successful and they have done a good job.
However I am still unclear what jurisdiction they think have over football in general. They have done their job with the legal profession but they are no experts when it comes to football. Surely football has a governing body, which attempts (with varying degrees of success) to tackle such issues (and others)? Oh yes the FA – the one that’s been around for 150 years.

'Lust Doctor' said...

Thanks Simon. It seems the Metropolitan Police will not take umbrage at such a remark!

'Lust Doctor' said...

Many thanks, Sumeer. Some excellent and insightful points. As you say, the Society's involvement in the Clattenburg situation is strange. Not sure how someone can bear witness without actually being present.