don't like the word, but then you get people who are so used to it
they are blind to its offensiveness.'
One of the most common, and offensive,
terms to describe a person who is mixed-race is half-caste.
Although mixed-race is fast becoming the most accepted way to describe
someone with a mixed racial background the term half caste is
still very much in use even by some mixed-race people themselves. Intermix.org.uk founder
Sharron Hall believes it is a derogatory term that gives the impression
that the person is somehow not whole and in the 21st century it's time
we stopped using it.
of Observer Sport, got the views of some of those involved in the world
of football, on the use of this offensive word.
Heather Rabbatts, born to a Jamaican mother and an English father, is the
recently appointed vice-chair at Millwall Football Club. 'I haven't heard
the word half-caste for many years, but I have heard it in football,' she
says. 'I've heard it used by white managers, although I don't think they
realise that it's racist. There's a long way to go before football understands
how to talk about race.'
Crystal Palace winger Jobi McAnuff grew up in north London with his Jamaican
father and white English mother. He feels strongly about the term half-caste.
'It's something mixed-race people have been labelled as for years,' he
says. 'If you polled a cross-section of society I bet the majority of people
would say half-caste. I don't like the word, but then you get people who
are so used to it they are blind to its offensiveness.' He agrees the term
is common in football. 'All the clubs I've been at I've been called half-caste.
It's routine. I make a point of asking people not to call me it, though.'
Of all those interviewed for this article, opinion was divided on whether
the term is offensive, although most agreed that 'it doesn't sound good'.
Interestingly, many guessed at the true meaning of the word. Don Walcott,
father of the Arsenal striker Theo, likened it to 'a fisherman who can't
quite cast his line across a pond'; the Portsmouth goalkeeper David James
offered, 'inhumanely manufactured'; Jobi McAnuff said: 'It means you're
half of something, like there's something missing.'
In fact, half-caste is not far off the appalling term half-breed, one that
Heather Rabbatts remembers hearing growing up in Kent. Caste comes from
the Latin castus, meaning pure, and the derivative Portuguese casta, which
means race. Caste was first used in India in the sixteenth century to describe
the Hindu system of hierarchy. The term half-caste indicates how pure you
are racially and echoes the days of colonial slavery when words such as
mulatto, quadroon and octoroon were commonplace in sales ledgers and even
in post-emancipation days in the old United States census.
Curtis Davies, the West Brom defender, whose mother is English and father
is from Sierra Leone, says he is so used to hearing half-caste it doesn't
bother him, but he objects to the term quarter-caste. 'Half-breed is the
worst, though,' he says. 'People say it in banter to me, but if they said
it seriously I would be offended.'
Being described in fractions is like being seen as abstract parts, says
David James. 'It was a subtle prejudice that I felt,' he says, 'but people
always commented on pieces of me - my hair, my colour - no one ever said
anything nice about the whole of me.'
Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe is not mixed race but grew up around mixed-race
families in the East End. He says that half-caste is derogatory. He sees
his mixed-race team-mates as black, he says. 'If we were messing about,
having a kick around, and someone said let's play black v whites, I'd expect
JJ [Jermaine Jenas] and Aaron [Lennon] to come with us. I don't think they'd
even stop to think about it.'
So how does football's anti-racism body, Kick It Out, view the position
of mixed-race individuals in the game? Director Piara Powar says the use
of the term half-caste is a form of abuse. 'If a player came to us with
a complaint about it we would support their case,' he says. 'It's an issue
the industry needs to be educated on.' Still, Piara believes that had Ron
Atkinson abused a top mixed-race player using the term half-caste, in the
way that he abused Marcel Desailly - in an unguarded moment, he called
the Frenchman a 'fucking lazy, thick nigger' in April 2004 - there would
have been nowhere near as severe repercussions for the former ITV pundit.
Kick It Out do not currently educate on mixed-race issues, but Piara says
that the term half-caste could be introduced into steward training packages
as a primary step.
So what does the future hold? Ashley Cole is not confident that much will
change. 'It's the adults that are teaching the kids the word half-caste;
to get them to change you need to re-educate them first,' he says. Jobi
McAnuff says the media is a vital tool in this. 'I don't think people realise
saying mixed-race would make such a big difference to mixed-race players
like us. The media is powerful. Imagine if they started using it in the
newspapers and on Match of the Day. It would educate people. I think it's
something we could look at.'