Gooners Shouldn’t Use The Y Word – A Jewish Gooner Speaks Out
Today on NLIR I am pleased to welcome Julius Burke-Perrin. Julius is a passionate Gooner who has tried to steer clear of the Y-word debate but after last weekend felt he had something to say on what has become a recurring problem. Take it away Julius…
As an Arsenal supporter, I happened to take particular joy out of Tottenham’s hilarious 3-0 loss to their biggest rival this side of the river besides us, West Ham United. In particular, I found myself collapsing in utter hysterics upon seeing Michael Dawson’s attempt to stop Ravel Morrison from scoring the third to bury Shite Hart Lane into utterly divine misery. However, what somewhat clouded my joy was the news that there had been some chanting from the West Ham fans that doesn’t belong in this society, let alone in the stands.
I am not religious but I have Jewish blood in my family. My great-grandparents escaped persecution in Eastern Europe and emigrated to New York in search of a life free from racist oppression. This is a fairly common story throughout many Jewish people’s family trees- fleeing anti-Semitism and seeking safety in a land where they can live without fear of expressing their ethnic or religious identity. I grew up and live in North London, a place where traditionally many Jewish people have settled, particularly in areas such as Golders Green, Hendon and Stamford Hill. Jews have made their mark on their communities, with examples such as The Jewish Museum in Camden Town and JW3 on Finchley Road.
Of course, North London is also home to two of Britain’s most well known clubs, Arsenal and Tottenham. Putting any laughing at the Spuds aside, they have traditionally had strong support from many members of the Jewish community and have also been owned by prominent Jews such as Alan Sugar and Joe Lewis. This association led to relentless anti-Semitic abuse from opposing fans wherever Tottenham went in the Seventies and Eighties, in turn leading to Tottenham fans adopting “Yid” as a positive term for the fans and players of the club. The vitriol against people of all races has largely stopped in football, but the Tottenham-West Ham game brought about yet more songs concerning Tottenham’s Jewish identity, with the away end singing songs (that could be heard from the opposite end of the stadium according to one 606 caller) such as “He’s coming for you, He’ coming for you, We won’t say his name (Hitler), he’s coming for you”.
Putting aside the fact that I find it ridiculous that you can’t enjoy smashing your rivals to pieces away from home without making fun of the Holocaust, I find it more difficult to believe that these people actually exist. We shouldn’t expect to hear songs targeting any group in stadiums, nor should we expect police to stand by and allow them to go on. I have been at Barnet games where people have been ejected for tacking the mickey out of the appearance of particular members of the opposing support for God’s sake, and not one person was thrown out for joking about the Holocaust by the dozens of police right next to them? It makes me laugh.
It is a fact that the Y word is just as offensive as the N word or the P word or any other bigoted term that exists for an ethnicity, gender or orientation. Some Jewish Tottenham fans say it, some don’t, but the Y word isn’t the equivalent to those terms reserved for black and Asian people regardless.
This is a word that was used by the Nazis, the people who hated Jews more than anything else. The word is inherently attached to forcing men, women and children into gas chambers and killing them in the most inhumane way possible. I find it hard to imagine any non-black person singing N-word army if adopting the same historical context for a club with strong links to the Caribbean/African community, as would many of the people who feel comfortable saying the Y word. To me, there is a big double standard in this respect.
I feel there is another point to be made about abuse in stadiums. Whether intentions are positive or not, I feel that many people are enabling more offensive abuse by sticking so strongly with the word. There is a certain ambiguity around “Yid”, which for me blurs the line for many as to what is acceptable and what is wrong. For whatever reason, some West Ham fans certainly felt able enough to take the piss out of the mass extermination of Jews.
If the use of the Y word, from every club (some of our fans still say “Yiddos” at the end of the otherwise excellent “We Hate Tottenham” chant) stopped, then more serious racist abuse would be in total isolation. Instead of wasting police time and money arresting one Tottenham fan out of thousands for saying the Y word to set what will be a fruitless example, the police could focus on weeding out the morons who hiss to imitate gas or sing about the Jews going to Auschwitz, which for me is far more shocking.
Don’t get me wrong, I love our rivalry. There is no game, not even Chelsea or Man United, that excites me nearly as much as Tottenham. There is no time when where I sit in the Clock End is louder than when we collectively laugh our heads off at the latest capitulation from our neighbours, no red card celebrated like that of a lanky Togolese mercenary, no goal enjoyed like one which involves the continuing calamity that is Michael Dawson. I’m sure the scum enjoy their occasional victory over us just as much. But there’s no need to involve the word Yid. Call them Spuds.
Thank you for that Julius. It’s a big subject at the moment and whilst I believe it is almost impossible to stop the Spuds using that word as an adjective for themselves I think much can be done to curb the use of it by rival supporters. Whilst I have never been a fan of the appropriation or ‘reclaiming’ of offensive words as a form of empowerment I do understand why Spurs supporters originally used the term in a self-descriptive manner but by and large the reasons for that have almost disappeared from the terraces, a few disgusting incidents notwithstanding, so the continued use is nothing more than a familiar moniker and that is no reason to keep it around. I agree 100% with your closing statement. Spuds is the only thing any Gooner needs call them and the use of the other word is marginalising a lot of our own supporters.
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