Outraged of Rhondda (Coffee and PC: The Best Bits 4)

At the student paper we used to get a weekly stream of complaints, some of them with merit, others that just didn’t like what was written. Every now and then a gem cropped up. The following is one of the last complaints I received, which lightened up a dull day no end, and my reply (in my defence, I was very bored that day). Occasionally you get little things that are worth keeping. This was one of them:

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Dear , In the section entitled “Debate” in the Quench magazine of the 9th May, [Columnist A] says, “Funds that could do anything other than pay for fancy dress costumes for that little ginger twat Harry”. I find the reference to Prince Harry’s hair colour offensive and racist against the Celtic inhabitants of this country. I find it offensive because I have ginger hair also. If the comment had read, “…that little black twat”, Mr [Columnist A] would have metaphorically been put against a wall and shot. Why is it, then, that the Union has done nothing when someone is victimised because of their hair colour? Surely, the logical outcome of such a complaint should be the same as if the comment had made a reference to Harry’s skin colour? I wish for this case to be brought to an harassment committee and [Columnist A] banned from the Union with immediate effect, as is stated in the Constitution. I also want the editor to take responsibility for the content of their contributions, as they would have to if skin colour had been the basis of the insult. Yours sincerely,

And my reply:

Dear , Thank you for taking the time to write to the paper and highlight this issue. However in this case we stand by the opinion of our contributor, [Columnist A]. In your complaint you describe the calling of Prince Harry as a “little ginger twat” as racist against Celtic inhabitants. This suggests that all Celts have ginger hair, which we have seen no evidence to support (see, for example our Union President, and our Deputy Editor, who are Welsh and do not have ginger hair. Indeed, the natural complexion of the Celts is pale skin and dark, almost black, hair). In addition you describe comments against ginger hair as racist in general. While there are a high proportion of ginger-haired people, to the best of our knowledge ginger-haired people are not a separate race (indeed, we have yet to see the option ‘Ginger’ under an ethnicity question) and, as such, the comment cannot be construed as racism. The comments in question were, in my reading of the article, descriptive towards Prince Harry. [Columnist A] is making reference to that fact that Prince Harry is little, has ginger hair and, in the opinion of the writer, is a twat. These comments are not directed at ginger people per se, but rather were intended to be derogatory towards one person – Prince Harry. At no point is any mention made of Prince Harry’s skin colour and nor does it make any reference, derogatory or otherwise, towards ethnicity. [Columnist A] is not, in our reading of the text, harassing ginger haired people, but is passing comment on the prince. If Prince Harry wishes to complain over the article, the paper would welcome his comments. We will, however, speak to [Columnist A] and remind him that there are readers out there with ginger hair, as yourselves, who could construe such comments as offensive. However, this is the first time [Columnist A] has made such comments regarding the colour of somebody’s hair and we see no reason as to why he will make such comments in the future. Finally, we would like to point out that the article had been shown three ginger-haired section editors, none of whom found the article to be offensive in any way. There is a fourth ginger-haired section editor who has not been consulted on the article, but we can solicit her opinion if you so desire. Yours,

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