Friday, September 09, 2005

Get your facts right before you racially abuse someone...

Local papers often give away more about the nature of their area than they intend.

The freebie that we get through the door every Friday is the Dumfries Courier. If you want a laugh, the “Court File” section is always the most entertaining.

This week, for example, there’s a wee piece about a banned driver who passed a police car on the wrong side of the road, mounted a pavement, crossed a playing field and demolished a post and wire fence. I mean, of all the places to lose control of a car – right in front of the police!

However, the best entry by far was this – and I quote it word for word:

Sixty-year-old Thomas Gemmill made one big blunder when he decided to racially abuse a man by calling him an English name.

For the Sheriff at Dumfries was told the other man, who had lived in England for a number of years, was in fact Scottish.

And Gemmill, of Goldie Crescent, Dumfries, was told by the Sheriff: “Racially aggravated behaviour will not be tolerated. Particularly when you get it wrong.”


(For readers not from Scotland - the Sheriff is the local Magistrate or Judge, not a policeman with a six-shooter)

Now Gemmill was fined £250 (about $400 US), so I guess that if the guy he insulted had actually been English, then he wouldn’t have been fined as much.

As an Englishman who’s lived in Scotland for 17 years, I have often damn near sprayed a mouthful of coffee over my partner when I’ve heard Scots saying how tolerant and non-racist they are. They always seem to miss out the next part of that sentence which is “unless, of course you’re English

In fact, the most commonly associated word with “English”, up here north of the border, is “Bastard” as in either “Bastard English” (referring to the nation), or “English Bastard” (referring to the individual). Though some Scottish friends have assured me that this is an affectionate term…

To be fair, most Scots don’t tend to be personal in their racism – they dislike the English, but as an individual, I’m ok – what they really hate is a London-centric bias by the government and media where Scotland is often viewed as an insignificant rural province. This, however, was quite unlike my experience in Wales where I was bullied as a child because I was English, making it very personal.

For the most part, I’ve not had much of a problem, mainly because I avoid drinking in certain pubs where an English accent would be a liability. What’s worse in these circumstances is that I have a Southern English accent (inherited from my parents as I have spent more of my life away from the South than in it), which is considered to be the voice of the oppressors.

However, while my day-to-day life is not blighted by overt racism, when the local Sheriff betrays his prejudices like that it can leave me feeling just a little disconcerted.

4 comments:

BStrong said...

Must have been a slow news day. You can fine someone for just about anything but that doesn't mean that they will actually have to pay it. That officer's wife must have bitched him out before he went to work. I'm kind of curious to know if that charge will stick. Would a person in England be fined for calling an English officer a Scottish name?

Hey, was the guy that lost control of his car in front of the officer bald and driving a BMW?

Have a great weekend!
B

Kim Ayres said...

It took me a while to figure out quite what you meant about making the charge stick, then I realised it was another language difference.

In Scotland, the Sheriff is a local magistrate, or judge, not a law enforcement officer. So the Sheriff's comments were the summing up of the judge.

I've gone back to the blog and added in a line of explanation just in case there are other confused people reading it.

Although it doesn't expressly mention what "English name" Gemmill was calling his victim, "English Bastard", "English F**ker", "English C**t" or any combination is most likely.

Thrup'ny bits said...

I thought we were all just plain old Sessenachs south of the border, which, though a legitimate word, can be spoken with a venomous tone.

Alan; I have a lot or reading to catch up on . . .

Kim Ayres said...

Sassenachs originates from "Saxons", but is just as often used by Highlanders to describe Lowlanders as it is to describe the English. Though in truth, I've never heard it used in anger in Scotland