Posts tagged: yido
My very first post was quite dismissive about accusations of Anti-Semitism in relation to my blog name. As the topic has recently been pushed to the front of the agenda by David and Idor Baddiel, I feel it is right I make my defence more thorough.
First of all let’s make one thing absolutely clear from the start. I am utterly opposed to discrimination of any kind. Being a wholehearted liberal I’m often on the receiving end of claims of being too soft, politically correct or out of step myself on issues surrounding discrimination. However on this occasion I believe that it is Baddiel and co who are out of step.
The campaign goes a little something like this: the “Y-word” (Yido) was once used as a pejorative term to describe the Jewish community and on occasion it is still used in that sense today (including within horrific chants making reference to the holocaust). Words like “n*****” and “p***” used to attack the Black and Asian community have been almost stamped out from the game. The Y-word hasn’t gone the same way and instead is used on a large scale by and to spurs fans to the extent that many are not even aware of its discriminatory nature.
The campaign is without a doubt well-intentioned and I respect all those involved for tackling what they perceive to be discrimination. But I think they are wrong. Let me explain my thinking.
Although I accept the fact that it was once used as a pejorative term and, on occasion, it is still used that way, I do not accept that the general and most widely recognised use of it still carries that same pejorative meaning.
The familiar story goes that chants using the words yids and yidos were directed at Tottenham fans in a derogatory fashion because of their strong links with the Jewish community. Spurs fans decided to take ownership of the term and began to call themselves Yids/Yidos to deflect the effects of the abuse. In an empowering move the community managed to take control of the term and transform it.
I would not argue that this in itself makes it ok and I’ll use an example to illustrate my point. Segments of the black community decided to take ownership of the term “n*****” and refer to themselves and others within that community using that term. Crucially, this was never adopted across the large majority of that community and it remains wholly pejorative for anybody outside of the community to use the term. In almost every sense this word clearly still maintains a pejorative meaning and should be treated as discriminatory.
In contrast the words yido/yid in the very specific context of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club have been almost universally accepted to have taken on a new meaning. I cannot find the original study for this but I remember Tottenham Hotspur carrying out a survey on this very matter a few years ago and the conclusion was that overwhelmingly, in the context it is used, it was not considered offensive by the local Jewish community. Within the Tottenham Hotspur community it is now used affectionately and in many cases is recognised as a badge of honour. A new player can take great pride in hearing the chant yido directed at him as it is an indication of his acceptance into the heart of the football club’s fraternity. Issues like this always have to be considered within a context and this is not explained more precisely or thoroughly than by Robert Samuelson here [Note: It is a lengthy post by an extremely well-informed and superbly articulated Jewish Tottenham supporter, be prepared for a longer read than this!]
The key point is that words can and do take on new meanings and the continuing use of the term in its old sense in particular instances does not take away from its generally accepted new meaning. Of course anybody caught using it in its former sense should be punished accordingly. This is difficult to identify and requires clever policing but it is the right way to move forward. Taking away such a positive and powerful symbol from a respectable community because of the disrespectful minority is wrong.
Again I’d like to reiterate how much I empathise with the campaign’s concerns but for reasons stated above I think their concerns are misplaced. I’d invite them to embrace the term under its modern positive meaning and more correctly focus their efforts on the true anti-Semitism that undeniably lives on in places within the sport.
Without hesitation we must continue to catch and punish those that use it in a discriminatory fashion, but we also must not punish the larger majority that use it in its modern day positive sense.
I’m proud to be called a yido and I hope that everybody can come to recognise that as solely a positive thing.