Let's Get Rid of the 'R' Word

There’s an urban myth that has been doing the rounds on the internet. Perhaps you’re familiar with it: it’s the one purporting to be a defense statement made during a racism trial by actor Michael Richards, the guy who plays Kramer in Seinfeld. It’s a string of racial slurs that most people have heard — or used — at one time or another in their lives.

You can tell it’s not genuine because it’s introduced with the words, “This is not from a TV program. This is real." You also know it’s not genuine because no white professional who wanted to keep his job — unless maybe that job was something senior, Head of Diversity perhaps, at the Ku Klux Klan — would ever stick his head above the parapet like that. Rather, he’d do just what Richards very sensibly did in 2006 when accused of making racist remarks to black hecklers in one of his stand-up gigs. He apologized and hoped the whole darned business would blow over as quickly as possible.

Latest global celebrity to follow this regrettably necessary course is Prince Harry, third in line of succession to the throne of the United Kingdom, man about town, flame-haired upper class pin up, and serving officer in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. The prince was recently forced to apologize profusely after being caught out on video jokingly calling one of his (darker-hued) fellow officers a “Paki” and saying he looked a bit like a “Raghead.” (The officer, a friend of Harry’s, made no objection. Later, it emerged that Harry’s father — the Prince of Wales himself — has an Indian friend, who cheerfully rejoices in the nickname “Sooty.”) “Raghead” is a popular British army nickname for the Jihadi opposition, be they insurgents in Iraq or Taliban in Afghanistan.

It’s quite possible that Harry helped “flatpack” a few of the latter in Helmand province just over a year ago, while serving on the front line as a Forward Air Controller on attachment to the Gurkhas. On one occasion he called in a strike by two US F-15 jets on a Taliban bunker complex. The three 500-pound bombs they dropped do not have a reputation for taking many prisoners.

When it emerged that Harry had fought in Afghanistan — it had been successfully kept secret, both for his own safety and that of his men, till a U.S. blogger blabbed and Harry had to be pulled swiftly out — the public reaction was hugely favorable. Just like the Queen Mother visiting bombed-out Londoners during the Blitz, just like George II leading his troops into battle at Dettingen, just like Prince Andrew flying helicopters in the Falklands war, nothing gets the Royal Family quite so swiftly into their subjects’ good books as when they put themselves cheerfully in the way of danger.

But now, thanks to just two ill-chosen words — on a video recorded while training as an officer cadet in 2006 — Harry has now tarnished the royal honor forever. Or at least that’s what you’d think if you believed all the guff emanating from the British political establishment(“considerable offence” “a completely unacceptable thing to say”), the media, and the inevitable rentaquote Muslim spokesmen (“deeply shocked and saddened…sickening…he should be thoroughly ashamed of himself.”)

Rudyard Kipling once wrote a poem about this phenomenon. It’s called Tommy and captures perfectly the hypocrisy of the public’s attitudes to its soldiery:

“For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”

But its “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot.”

What Kipling (who had befriended many soldiers in India and later lost his beloved son in the Great War) understood, as so many in our feminised, politically correct, anti-militaristic age do not, is that you can’t train a man to fight and kill and then expect him to comport himself like a lesbian outreach worker.

Last week, I found myself drinking with a group of World War II veterans in London’s Royal Hospital — home of our Chelsea Pensioners — and to a man they were appalled that Harry had been forced to apologize for what they considered perfectly healthy and good-natured “barrack room banter.”

This contrast between the realities of combat and political correctness is, a senior serving officer told me over lunch, one of the military’s biggest headaches. On the one hand, you’re expected to risk your life, live in abject squalor, and destroy the enemy in a thousand and one grisly ways; on the other, you’re expected to observe every last piety of our modern PC world from anti-racism, anti-bullying and non-smoking all the way through to health ’n’ safety.
It’s no wonder so many young soldiers are suffering mental health problems.

But it’s not just in the context of the military that this whipped-up “racism” furor is so absurd and objectionable. Let us return to the statement that Michael Richards didn’t actually make in court but which would have been wonderful if he had, because the sentiment behind it is so right and true: the time has come for us to call a halt to “racism.”

And I don’t mean “racism” itself. That will be impossible because all of us — black, white, yellow or brown — are always going to be a teeny bit biased towards people of our own color, try though most of us do to suppress this bias. What I mean, rather, is the way this weasely, dishonest, debased and frankly now almost meaningless word is still being so devastatingly deployed — very often by white liberals, but also, of course, by unscrupulous or chippy minorities — as an easy way of besmirching innocent people they either dislike or disagree with.

Harry’s not racist. I’m not racist. You’re not racist. Hardly anyone is in these enlightened times — at least not in its traditional “being actively hostile to people of other races.”

True racism is about bad intentions, not about the odd, perhaps ill-chosen, racial epithet, and it’s high time as a society we were grown up enough to acknowledge this. The Civil Rights war is over; so’s the lynching; so’s the segregation. Now all most of us want to do get along. But so long as too many people go on abusing that “R” word, how can we?