Apparently somebody* repeatedly said the word paki on BBC Question Time last night and no one smacked her in the mouth or booted her off set. Of course what we (visibly Paki people) needed was for this to become a ‘debate’ in which white people talk over us and for us, in the manner to which they are accustomed.
Dave asks why it’s ok to say Brit and not Paki. Let’s see now Dave, did anyone ever call you a dirty Brit whilst stomping on your head? Did they ever use Brit as a prefix for the corner shop, or is it just a shop, as it is to the rest of us who do not speak in racialised terms? Is Brit a perjorative term for all White Europeans? Does it have a history steeped in racist divide and conquer? See, if there was a swastika with the word Brit next to it, it would mean something completely different to the same image with the P word.
The word Pakistan is an acronym for Punjab, Afghan, Kashmir, Indus and Sind. Stan means ‘land’. Many native Pakistanis believe it has another meaning, pak means pure, put together it becomes the land of the pure. Native Pakistanis aren’t as bothered by ‘paki’ because they haven’t had to live under the beady eye of fascistic white Britain, nor have they learnt to associate it with actual physical violence and marginalisation. Pakistanis never had the power to self determination though, not as the losers of the British empire. They have been subjugated by the west since ‘independence’, and their neighbours, with whom the conflict still rages on.
Paki reminds me of another term bastardised by white supremacist colonialists that affects me personally. If you’ve ever seen a Carry On film you’ve heard the term ‘khazi’, meaning toilet. In Pakistan there is a caste system of sorts though it is doesn’t carry as much weight or power as the Hindu one. If anything it is a legacy from a time when Hindus and Muslims lived together and adopted each others traditions. My paternal grandfather’s caste was Khazi. This meant that he was a scholar, a judge, an authority. It was only in my 30s, many years after I’d heard the label being misused so offensively that I learned my Mughal ancestors had changed their names to escape the genocide British soldiers had planned for them, forced into the mountains to escape the slaughter. They adopted the name Khazi instead of Mughal, a demotion but crucial if they were to survive. The British Army adopted the term no doubt to express their delight at taking a shit on us from a great height. This is what the British empire means to anyone not invested in its bloody violence and coercion, demoralising and degrading, brutish humiliation that has ensured generations of Pakistanis cannot hold their heads up high.
Paki, like khazi, and the N word and every other label thrown about by white supremacists to abuse others are rooted in domination and toxic masculinity. These labels have been used quite successfully to disempower and traumatise the people they are inflicted on. One word has the power to split open centuries old wounds encoded in our very DNA. Autoimmune conditions such as lupus affect people who come from nations colonised by white supremacists. It is as though the body is under such a sustained attack that it turns on itself, desperate to find the thing that is wrong and make it better. Every time a white person spits out the P word, we experience a spike in adrenalin, a fight or flight response and every last white person knows this. They KNOW IT. Raised cortisol levels eventually take their toll. People from African and Asian communities have been admonished for their health issues, being so many more times likely to suffer from heart disease and diabetes, it has been suggested we simply do not know how to look after ourselves YET racism as a cause for mental and physical disability has not been researched enough.
Next time a white person ‘debates’ their right to use racial slurs, just call them a gammon. A salty, fatty gammon with a sizeable rind. It hurts them to be associated with such a poor cut, I’m sure many of them would rather be labelled bacon but lardon might be pushing it. They have the right to play devil’s advocate, we reserve the right to compare them to their favourite cold cuts. Don’t let them derail you with claims of classism, if they would rather identify with a bresaola, let them have it. It’s all pig.
It’s no longer a time for appeasement, where we roll with the punches and earnestly seek to educate the ignorant masses on how we are all equals in God’s eyes, no, it’s time to give as good as you get. Get creative, be a petty tit for tat queen.
*The person in question was Sikh and referring to herself being abused with the p word but the point still stands, what are the BBC doing broadcasting it from anyone’s mouth? Why isn’t it being challenged? BBC question time seems to push the boundaries back when it comes to the normalisation of racial slurs and polarisation of political views. It’s interesting that they let a Sikh person express their distress at being labelled with this slur and not a Pakistani, because there are Sikhs and Hindus who are desperate to set themselves apart from ‘true pakis’ because they have rejected us and still cannot appreciate we look exactly the same to whites.
I found it interesting to see Shappi Khorsandi so affected by it because she’s not even south Asian. This awful word is used to control an entire continent but don’t forget the Arabs, and the Brazilians, and even some southern Europeans. It is a deeply racist word associated with that beige-y brown skin tone and shouldn’t be spoken on national television. Shame on the BBC. Stop paying your tv license.