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Home > Music

"Get that jigaboo up here and I will sort her out!"

We've been following the trial of Cheryl Tweedy of Girls Aloud with keen interest, and not just because of our mixed-results campaign against the band last Christmas.

17 October 2003

Musically, it has to be said that 'No good advice' is a staple on the office stereo, though not the Oasis-quoting, ballady, 'difficult' third single.

You may recall that Cheryl was accused of a racist attack in a nightclub. Watching the webloggers' coverage of the trial is fascinating. The Girls Aloud brand, of course, is of petty-minded Cinderella Rockefeller-liking small-town ladies. And so it makes sense to many observers that a band member might be racist.

That is, until Day Two of the trial, when it was alleged that Cheryl had shouted 'Get that jigaboo up here and I will sort her out!'.

'Jigaboo'. Suddenly the commentators aren't so sure. Where does a hip young popstrel get off on using outdated racist slurs?

This is not to deny the enormous spread of racist terms used by pop stars. But most of these, happily, are in fact used -- at least in public -- by black artists. NWA spring to mind, as does Michael Jackson's bewildering reappropriation of 'spabook'. Nelly, being from the South, has as his stage name an epithet from the those racially-troubled states. And Stevie Wonder starts his funkiest and best track, 'I wish' by nostalgically-recalling his youth: 'Looking back on when I / was a little nappy-headed boy'.

But we don't expect white musicians to be so racially verbose. Where would Cheryl have picked up the term 'jigaboo'? It was re-popularised by the 1975 film 'Cooley High', but surely Cheryl hasn't even seen Star Wars IV yet, let alone this minor movie? Certainly no more than she would have picked up 'maroon', as used by Bugs Bunny in his wacist wabbit period, 'moor' from 'Othello' or 'Hottentot' from nineteenth-century racist pamphlets. Maybe 'kaffir' from 'Lethal Weapon II', but that's not what's at stake here.


And so the question remains: if Cheryl's defence is right, and the nightclub added a race element to the attack to garner more press, where on earth did they come up with the word 'jigaboo'?

In short: someone said 'jigaboo' out of the blue, either Cheryl or the nightclub. What is this term still doing hanging about? Did someone read a thesaurus, or is Britain still stuck in the dirtiest crap of its sordid past?

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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