Callers debate whether 'offensive words' around can be used to talk about race 'in context'

26 October 2020, 09:41 | Updated: 26 October 2020, 09:47

By Fiona Jones

Two callers debate whether offensive words can be used "in context" after a teacher apologised for making reference to how language around black people has changed over time.

Head teacher of a leading boarding school has apologised for using the word negro during an assembly on Black History Month, following a backlash from students.

Ms Samantha Price, 46, told pupils that the celebration of black history began in 1926 and was originally called "Negro History Month."

Caller Michael from Hackney said the headteacher was right to apologise: "The word historically has been used by white people as a term of violence. In this country racism might not be overt like the American but it can and is very subtle, so even if the intention is just to educate, sometimes it can subtly bruise whoever it is being said to."

Michael said that black people have taken the pain they have absorbed over hundreds of years, and have reclaimed the word as a term of endearment.

However, caller Robert from Forest Hill argued that using an offensive word depends on "the context."

Someone aimed a racial slur at Robert and his friends when they were on public transport, which he of course disagreed with wholeheartedly.

Yet, he argued, "I think from an educational point of view, I think that word is acceptable when teaching."

Nick turned back to the initial caller and said that sadly the word "black" is sometimes used in a derogatory way, "to take your argument that I can't use negro means I can't use black either."

Michael argued, "That's not true...anything that's been given can either be a tool or a weapon.

"It's a label that has been given, not something that has been earned."