Reginald D Hunter and the PFA: Talking about racism isn’t the problem

Hunter’s vocabulary is an attempt to disarm a word designed to hurt him

Share

Clarke Carlisle, chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association, was mortified by his organisation’s choice of comedian for its annual awards the other night.

The PFA had picked Reginald D Hunter, enthusing beforehand that “his jokes ring true” and looking forward to his “topical content”. But when, in the event, Mr Hunter made repeated use of the word “n*****”, it didn’t go down too well. The organisers had apparently asked him to avoid talking about race, which may call into question how attentive they were to the CV of a comedian known for such shows as Trophy N*****, A Mystery Wrapped in a N*****, and Pride and Prejudice and N*****s.

Anyway, the PFA, shocked, shocked by the use of the N-word, is now asking for its money back, which raises an interesting question about refunds the next time Luis Suarez deploys an unfortunate epithet. The first signal of such a move came with Mr Carlisle’s comments the day after the ceremony. “We made a really gross error of judgement,” he said. “When you go to a comedy store, you know you might have to leave your moral compass at the door. But the PFA awards dinner is not the time to have an act like that.”

This is a striking idea. Imagine, on the one hand, comedy clubs, those hotbeds of bigotry, full of gleefully amoral punters setting any objections to one side because they just think racism is hilarious; and, on the other, football clubs, where they’re doling out moral compasses, if anything, to the hummus-eating softies who gather to enjoy a game played by gentlemen, and don’t chant vile things, ever, and where no star is so big that his bigotry will be overlooked.

Somehow, that doesn’t ring true. To the outside observer, this doesn’t look like an instance of comedy’s race problem. Instead, it looks like a game so paralysed by anxiety that it is unable to make the distinction between being racist and talking about racism – and unwilling to pay anyone who is attentive to that difference. I’ve seen Mr Hunter perform: his vocabulary is plainly part of a considered attempt at disarming a word that represents something repugnant, a word, as he puts it, “that was designed to hurt me”. “It’s about context,” he has said. “The word itself is not the problem.” We might dispute the wisdom of this position. But the argument is not about moral compasses.

Why can’t football handle this idea? Well, our thinking might be clarified by the game’s attitude to an honour for the striker Ched Evans, a convicted rapist, at last year’s shindig. In the aftermath of that decision, PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor helpfully explained that taking him out of the team “would have created more of a storm”. That’s right, folks: the problem isn’t being racist, or being a rapist, or being part of a culture so uninterested in self-criticism that its worst offenders tend to be left with no more than a slapped wrist and an unjustified sense of grievance. The problem isn’t any of that. The problem, as Reginald D Hunter has found to his cost, is talking about it.

Twitter: @archiebland

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: the paraphernalia of a practised burglar – screwdrivers, gloves, children

Guy Keleny
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits  

So who, really, is David Cameron, our re-elected ‘one nation’ Prime Minister?

Andrew Grice
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?