Taunting anybody and everybody outside the group is what you tribal humans do. (That's you - don't tar me with that brush!) It doesn't matter how the tribe is defined: social groups, age, politics, football team, musical taste, etc, you are either ‘in’ or infra dig. Despite differences in content, sophistication and subtlety of delivery, the aim is the same; if you cry you lose - that's sort of the whole point. Have you never watched BBC Parliament?
Talking of which, in the last few days, Diane Abbott has been spanked for being a bit racist, referring to ‘white people’ (how dare she?), Ed Miliballs made a colourful Freudian slip (he said one thing, but he meant his mother) and – this just in – David Cameron’s only gorn and done a Tourette’s gag (hilarious!).
In a world where few people display the linguistic prowess of a Churchill or a Wilde and almost nobody has the time to carefully phrase their every utterance, the easiest source of insult is to comment on the way people look and the way they behave. To wit: “Oi, you lanky twat!”, “Who ate all the pies, you fat Bastard?” and “Do what, you Speccy Gobshite?” all have the advantages of being pithy, direct, abusive and amusing… so long as you have a sense of humour. (You might need to be male to understand this, but don’t worry, love, we’ll explain it to you later. *wink* )
There's plenty of psychology about it - most of it under various inventive headings which really mean ‘bullying’. That’s obvious really, because most psychology aficionados will have been bullied at some point; that's why they are generally such miserable killjoys at the forefront of many ideological backlashes against base human nature. What a shame these mental physicians have failed the Socratic imperative to ‘know thyself’.
But all of these robust jibes turn bad when you insert the word 'black' in front of them. Suddenly, using an approved word to describe skin colour renders an utterance no longer a childish insult, but the work of a spittle-spreading, eugenics-loving, fascistic Brown Shirt who would bring back slavery at the drop of a hat.
If the offence-takers had their way you would not be allowed to pick Lenny Henry from a police line-up of David Cameron, Ed Balls, Nick Clegg and himself using ‘that’ word. (But I'd hazard it would be okay to differentiate David Bowie from Snoop Dog, Morgan Freeman and Eddie Murphy using the ‘other’ colour.)
So, what is offensive and what is merely descriptive? Is it racist if he’s your personal friend? Is it still racist if you're both 'that' colour? Is it offensive if nobody actually takes offence? And can you really eradicate the casual use of deliberately hurtful terminology on the spur of the moment? I know, let’s do the proper socialist thing and make a crime out of it. Let's criminalise everything we don't like the sound of! Whoops, too late! I think we already did.
Which is why, in the United Dingdom, we will bring back a proper respect for abuse and reintroduce some proper British swearing Flanders and Swann style. Go on, give your nostalgia nodes a little treat and click the link.