A Compromise Proposal for the Y-word

The use of the Y-word has been a subject of conversation lately. The Prime Minister was even called to weigh in on it and it’s been discussed to death and rebirth on this and many other sites. At this point, we’re treading on the same ground, either sticking to our black and white sides or arriving at similar shades of grey. On the one hand you have those arguing that the term has a place in Spurs’ history that is a mark of pride: a communal response shielding a minority against vitriol directed at them from opponents. On the other side you have the criticism that the term is inherently anti-Semitic, its use borders on mascotizing, or that it’s modern use in a way contributes to anti-Semitism by stripping it of its real world meaning and making it a football ribbing game. (This is not the same as victim blaming since the one thing all sides would agree on is that the FA needs to do more to stop directly anti-Semitic chanting by non-THFC sides.)

The point of this article is not to retread these same points, but rather to suggest a way to move forward. A compromise that will be unsatisfying to some on both sides of the argument, but one I think ultimately addresses underlying criticisms both sides have of the other.

We know the side that I have argued, but I never would suggest that the history of the use of Yid by THFC supporters shouldn’t be honored and celebrated. Indeed, it was one of the reasons I picked this team to support when the one team in the EPL I have an actual connection to plays elsewhere in London. The fact that in the face of anti-Semitism, the team and it’s supporters took the ideal that to harm one is to harm all is an amazing, enlightened and truly beautiful thing. It is a spirit that should be honored by all, football fans or not, Jewish or not.

Yet at the same time there is the question, are the Yiddo chants helping or hurting at this point? Or neither? There is validity in the argument that bigots will be bigoted, and anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe in recent years. At the same time, we are decades removed from this original usage and anti-Semitism has waned in that time (or at least became less visible). As such, my modest proposal to all Spurs fans is this:

Let’s use the Yiddo chants only in response to anti-Semitic chants or behavior from opposing fans during or in the lead up to a game.

It’s a simple ground rule. If Chelsea fans hiss or West Ham fans sing about their foreskins, we are all Yiddos. If we have incidents like we did in Rome or Lyon, then for all came we can (and should) let everyone know, "we’re still here, we’re all Jews, fuck you." But otherwise, when the team comes out the tunnel, it’s Come On You Spurs or When the Spurs Go Marching In.

It’s an imperfect compromise, but I think a good and effective one for many reasons.

1. It puts an end to the chicken & egg argument. Nobody can claim that the Spurs fans’ use of the Y-word contributes to an air of anti-Semitism if it’s only in response to anti-Semitism. If we are met with anti-Semitic chants without using it, it lays bare the idea that the use of the term is contributory.

2. It honors the club’s history by being directly in relation to the term’s historic use. The word comes out only as a shield to anti-Semitism, and diminishes the argument that its usage is mascotizing.

3. It serves, once again, as an example of how a community can rally around a targeted minority. With the above two arguments diffused, the example of Spurs supporters taking on the "hurt one, hurt all" ideal and using it to respond to offense will be unquestionable. Comparisons to Native American teams or sectarian Scots will not hold weight and THFC fans will stand as a shining example of pluralistic community fighting the voices of bigotry and monoculture.

And if we as Spurs fans never have an opportunity to call ourselves Yids again, what then? We lose nothing, because we still have and always will have our history. We will be the team whose fans rallied around each other when faced with bigotry, but also a team who showed the wisdom to know when it was time to honor history by letting it go and avoided the path to cartoonish mascotizing before it was too late. In this scenario, we have reason to be as proud for not calling ourselves Yids as we do for calling ourselves Yids.

This is my proposal, you may even say challenge, for all. Let us be proud of our history and honor it, but also admit that discretion may be the better part of valor. We will never stop rallying together when needed, but we will also seek to avoid divisiveness when it arises.

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