When we use ‘Paki’, we lose. We disrespect every migrant before us who suffered the indignity of prejudice. To appropriate a Western slur used against all of us to attack some of us is true degradation. Who said the Empire Struck Back? The imperialists and their progeny, the neo-Nazis, have won. To be called a Paki was, ironically, the great leveller, transcending all boundaries — your local racists kindly ignored class, creed, colour, country of origin and caste when it came to the hunt. The histories of nations were wiped clean by a steel-toed boot, a tabula rasa created by young men blinded by hate. They knew nothing of Partition, the wars between India and Pakistan, the civil war in Sri Lanka and the fight for Bangladeshi independence. It didn’t matter whether you were Parsi or Christian, working-class or filthy rich, Sinhala or Sikh, Bangladeshi or Guyanese.
Piali Roy dropping truth bombs on the malicious use of the racist slur ‘Paki’ in the UK and beyond.
Originating in England, “Paki” was the kind of word that would easily spurt out of an English racist in an early Hanif Kureishi film. The Oxford English Dictionary dates its first usage in print to as late as 1964. The term crossed the Atlantic to Canada in the early 1970s. By the 1980s, “dothead” and “curryhead” had been coined as American alternatives to “Paki”. And now, some Indians have chosen to appropriate this term of abuse and partition its meaning.
This racist term has been used to a degree that even other brown people - Arabs, Persians, Afghans - are attacked with variations of this word. If you’re going to use it, expect reactions and don’t complain. A slur is a slur is a slur. No two ways about it.