A huge deal is likely to be made over video footage of Prince Harry referring to a fellow soldier, thought to be a friend of Harry's, as a paki. Sorry, but this is far more complex than Harry spouting racist language.
As a young man who has been educated in what was one of the worst state secondary schools in the country, that saw few of my class mates achieve five A to C grades, as well as attending one of the very best state sixth forms in the country, I have come into contact with people from an extremely wide range of backgrounds. This is key to the issue in my opinion. What I don't think most British people realise is the hugely varying degree of values among our society, of which race is a solid example. I have been in the presence of white middle class prats who spout off racist remarks (which I slapped them down for as they were using the remarks maliciously) who have rarely come into contact with those from other races, shielded by their almost exclusively white private education. This lot will end up running the country. Similarly I know working class black and asian lads who use words like "nigga" and "paki" in a relaxed social manner with their white mates.
At University now I know people from urban areas - inner city London for example - who, once you developed a relationship with them, would not bat an eyelid to the word paki as long as it was not used in an overly aggressive or malicious manner. These people can be of any race. Another block of young people are those who have been raised in more rural surroundings or who have perhaps been less socially active in their earlier years. These sorts of people tend to be interested in religion and politics. They would be horrified at the use of the word paki in any context and certainly do not use it themselves. They also struggle to understand why anyone who was asian would use the word. These are the journos of tomorrow. Again, people of this variety cannot be specified by race. Whilst I am hugely generalising here, it is a generalisation I have found to be accurate. What can best be described as the "cool", street-wise kids of my generation are in most scenarios so far past the issue of race that they see the "n" and indeed the "p" word as street lingo and joking language rather than anything harmful - though this only really applies when people they can identify with use these words. Naturally, I am one of these cool cats, and there are certainly few of us who will blog, stand for election or even vote.
This makes the whole story a very complex one for me, and one which highlights a few things which are going on in Britain. Whilst there will be outrage directed towards the potential future King of the country in the papers, what will the typical response be among many working class lads and ladies? Probably a claim, if quizzed, that they are hardly surprised he is racist - he is after all upper class and white. I differ from my default cool cat status on this one, as I recognise that Harry was not being malicious or nasty, but a prat for ever saying such a word given his Prince status and the responsibility this brings. This group of people though, from my experience, are in fact the least likely to give a damn about the press - apart from the sports pages and possibly page three. Which brings us to the real meat of the issue: who now do the media broadly stand up for in terms of values? I'd have to say that, particularly for the more populist papers like The Sun and the News of the World where the Prince Harry story appears, they represent a much more middle-aged crowd than they would like to think, more Mark the Builder than Jay the DJ. With the advent of the internet and the likes of MSN Messenger and Facebook, your average young person has enough going on in their lives without feeling any real need to force their way through a viewing of BBC News or read a newspaper. This has lead to, if you like, a breakdown in communication between the majority of young people and the generations above us.
I dunno, I haven't been alive for long, perhaps this has always been the case? What I do know is that whilst some young people are involved in politics, they seem largely to be well-off anoraks with very little life experience or knowledge of the values of an ordinary young man or woman. That's fine, but as I noted earlier, they are largely part of one – minority - group of youngsters. I'm not sure that that is common knowledge. Whilst I and the many other young people I know like me will never forget about the disgusting history of racism across the world and here in Great Britain, as well as its dangerous scumbag remnants that remain here today, we are mostly past that. We have moved on and are colour blind as Martin Luther wanted us to be. Some celebrity Prince figure saying the word paki ain't gonna stir much, and the reaction isn't going to be defined by skin colour.