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Video: Why is the N word so offensive? Jeremy Clarkson and Justin Beiber’s alleged use of the word reawakens memories many would rather forget

15:04 03 June 2014

Glen Chisholm, outside Portman Road.

Glen Chisholm, outside Portman Road.

Sarah Lucy brown

The ‘N word’ is one that should be consigned to history, says Glen Chisholm, who was subjected the blatant racism as he grew up in Ipswich in the 1980s.

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“You can’t help but be aware of the N word,” he said, speaking in the wake of the row over Jeremy Clarkson’s alleged use of the derogatory term.

Clarkson was reciting the childhood rhyme Eeny, meeny, miny, moe...when he apparently used the word, although he claims he mumbled it so as not to cause offence.

Justin Beiber has also hit the headlines after footage of him making a racist joke which used the ‘N word’ was released.

“It is important for people to realise that the word in genuinely offensive to people, it is not that we are being overly PC,” said Mr Chisholm, who is a borough councillor for Ipswich.

“I have read Clarkson’s apology and he knew what he was doing, he was trying to push the boundaries.”

He continued: “But if you haven’t been in their shoes, you probably don’t realise the effect it has on some people.

“The only time it is acceptable is in an historical context, like when it was used in the film 12 Years a Slave.”

Born to an English mother and a Jamaican father, the 41-year-old was brought up in Ipswich and has first-hand experience of the type of racism you read about in history novels.

“Someone put a padlock on my mum’s gate and wrote ‘this is to keep this n***** boy in’ and people would spit in my face,” he said.

Mr Chisholm, who is now a member of the board of trustees at ISCRE (Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality), explained that the word evokes memories of a time when a racial hierarchy existed.

“There was a structure, and people would feel superior over a certain race. When I hear that word it brings back memories of that. In the past I feel people have felt they are superior to me because of the colour of their skin.”

Sadly, the racism that Mr Chisholm experienced as a child still exists today and through his work at ISCRE he has helped many who have suffered prejudice because of their race or religion.

“We work with people who have been discriminated against because of the language they speak, or the colour of their skin. It is important that we realise racism is still here.”

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