On the terraces of White Hart Lane, there is a phrase that is fast gaining notoriety within the game of football and that is: Yid Army. The word yid is infamously known as a discriminatory word to belittle people belonging to the Jewish religion. With Tottenham having a sizable Jewish following, and football at its very worst being abrasive, hyper-masculine and hostile; Tottenham fans have had to put up being insulted with the term Yid for a long time. As a defensive mechanism, many Tottenham fans have adopted the moniker: Yid Army. The aim is to diffuse the situation by 'reclaiming' the word and changing its definition from a negative one, to a positive one; it is the classic case of: "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me."
As expected, Tottenham's Yid Army have attracted polarising attention from politicians (as you can see above) and from many Jewish figures themselves. Starting with the defenders of the Yid Army, they most noticeably include: David Cameron and former FA Chairman David Bernstein.
In the case of Cameron, his direct quote above deals with the importance tone has in a conversation, making a clear distinction between the camaraderie Tottenham fans share describing themselves as yids and the malice opposing fans share when calling Tottenham fans yids.
In this sense, I believe Tottenham's fans are onto something. They have shown how powerless words are when you strip them of the importance human beings attach to them. For example, when growing up the phrase: "your mum..." was the source of much antagonizing. If you, like I did, saw this phrase as silly and humourous, thus preceded to walk away, my peers would deride me for failing to defend the honour of my mother and insult me even harder the next time, much to my chagrin.
If you, like so many others I knew decided to retaliate with your fists, well, violence only begets more violence (or in the case of where I grew up, a gradual increase of violence in reprisal attacks), you would soon grow tired of this tactic and revert to my tactic.
It was a vicious cycle where it seemed my actions were dictated by that of my peers. It was only until I had matured enough to realise I need to change the meaning of the phrase that I would be relieved from the stress it gave me whenever it came up. From then on, whenever anyone put the phrase to me, I would precede to say: "...so what of her"; "...is a nice person"; or even switching the phrase against the person saying it to me: "...is a prostitute"; "...gave birth to a" (I'll let your mind fill the expletive).
Although quite drastic and unorthodox, it was very effective in making the offender aware of how silly the phrase is without preaching or running off to a teacher (both approaches would have seen you beaten up). Indeed there are a few comparisons between my approach to my dilemma and that of Tottenham fans.
Former FA Chairman David Bernstein who is Jewish himself, had this to say:
"If two or three people do something, you can prosecute them. If a number of thousands do it, it gets increasingly difficult," Bernstein said.
"Then you get into the question of what penalties should be incurred. Should a stand be closed down? Should a ground be closed down?
"That's where you end up, and I'm not saying that should be the case here because I do feel this is something that's done in a non-malicious way. There are extenuating circumstances.
"If the word is used in the way it is used by the crowds, in a sympathetic, inclusive way, almost as a badge of honour, I suppose I would be against prosecutions and I would tend to agree with the Prime Minister when he voiced similar views.
"When words like that are used maliciously it's a different matter altogether."
Bernstein, who stepped down as FA chairman this year after turning 70, said he has "agonised" over the use of the word.
"It's very offensive to many, including myself," he said on BBC Radio Five Live.
"Would I rather it wasn't used? Of course.
"So I suppose the question is: if an offensive word is used in what's meant to be an inoffensive way, does it make it any less hurtful?
"My view would be that I wish that it wasn't used. It would be better if it wasn't. It does upset people; it certainly upsets me.
"But in this particular case it's a rather special set of circumstances."
*As quoted from the Independent
As mentioned earlier in this article, the Tottenham fans that have taken up the moniker: Yid Army, have only done so out of pure egotism not to be outdone by opposing fans. Whilst their aggravation at opposing fans taunting them is certainly valid, their pain does not equate to the pain I can imagine a Jewish person would go through hearing the chanting. For this reason, despite the empathy I have, I cannot condone the practice some Tottenham fans have decided to take.
Therefore, it is not fair that Tottenham's Yid Army persist; they are simply fanning the flames of antisemitism by making a mockery of a word that should be deemed taboo.
The greatest example of this is one I have used before - the trial of Christopher Jones.
"In 2012 Christopher Jones, a white male from Stoke-on-Trent was acquitted for racist abuse after calling a black male "a n****r". His defence for his usage of the term was: "I like hip-hop and it is a word used all the time, the word is a term of endearment. I have more black friends than white".
I can now hear people saying: why can only one group of people use the word. My take on it:
There are simply some words that should be left taboo. Whether or not one group has a connection to a word or phrase, if the opposing groups history cannot be forgiven, then no one should be allowed to 'reclaim' something for themselves - that would be tantamount to discrimination and segregation.
In either case, are you so linguistically challenged that you cannot go without this one word? Just some food for thought.
As this is a very sensitive topic, don't be afraid to let me know your opinion on the matter - have I got it bang on? Or totally missed the mark?