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To not know 'Spook' is a racist term?

(33 Posts)
YeahBuddy Tue 30-Oct-12 22:04:30

My local police have a Facebook page which they use to update 'likers' on different issues, open days, schemes to cut crime etc. So a few days ago the update was about Halloween, basically saying to have fun dressing up and celebrating Halloween but they would be keeping an eye on things. The word 'spooks' was used, as in 'we will deal with any spooks that get out of hand' or words to that effect. Somebody commented that the post was racist, that the word 'spook' was a racist term and that he would be making a formal complaint. The post was quickly taken down and an edited version put back on about five minutes later with an apology for any offence caused.

I didn't know spook was a racist term though, I've never heard/seen it used in that context. I'm 24, is it an older slur or is it more an American term?

lurcherlover Tue 30-Oct-12 22:06:12

I have never heard this. How is it racist?

scarevola Tue 30-Oct-12 22:06:47

I've never come across it as a racist term.

At Hallowe'en it refers to ghosts (which can be any race, surely?) and the rest of the year, spies (ditto).

aamia Tue 30-Oct-12 22:06:58

I thought it meant spy as in the TV programme 'spooks' or ghost (as in my childhood meaning of the word lol). Will be interested to see what it might mean now!

McHappyPants2012 Tue 30-Oct-12 22:07:28

Yanbu I didn't know either

vodkaanddietirnbru Tue 30-Oct-12 22:07:32

I didnt know it was racist either.

MadCap Tue 30-Oct-12 22:07:54

It is an American racist term for a black person. The tv show Spooks was re-named in the States as MI-5. It is quite offensive. Though I don't think yabu as I really don't know how widespread that knowledge is here.

kim147 Tue 30-Oct-12 22:07:55

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

vodkaanddietirnbru Tue 30-Oct-12 22:08:10

gordyslovesheep Tue 30-Oct-12 22:09:21

it is a very old world for a black African American man but I don't think it is at ALL racist in the context of ghosts and holloween!

Notquite Tue 30-Oct-12 22:10:07

I think it's an American thing. There's a Philip Roth novel about an academic who runs into trouble by referring to a (black) absentee student as a 'spook', meaning someone who's existence he doesn't really believe in. Can't remember the title. That's the only time I've ever encountered it as a racist term.

XBenedict Tue 30-Oct-12 22:10:31

I believe it's an American term. There's a song that uses it by Hot Chocolate - Brother Louie

MadCap Tue 30-Oct-12 22:10:40

Certainly spooks and spooky is used in terms of Halloween in America without any offence cause either.

kim147 Tue 30-Oct-12 22:10:58

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Peevish Tue 30-Oct-12 22:11:04

Like Madcap, it was news to me until I wondered aloud to an American friend why they'd renamed the TV series Spooks when it was screened in the US. This was despite living in the US - I'd never come across it used in a racially derogatory way.

ProphetOfDoom Tue 30-Oct-12 22:11:57

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Cozy9 Tue 30-Oct-12 22:12:12

It's quite an old fashioned thing. Clint Eastwood's character uses it in "Gran Torino".

MadCap Tue 30-Oct-12 22:13:07

Yeah Peevish, I am American and had to ask a black friend what it meant when I saw that they'd changed the title of the show, because oddly I was recommending that she watched it.

Cozy9 Tue 30-Oct-12 22:13:37

SchmaltzingMatilda, yeah, there was a transformers character called Spastic that had to be renamed for the UK.

scarevola Tue 30-Oct-12 22:13:47

Some words change meanings because of different usage in the US. But not all of them. Try asking a US friend if you can bum a fag off them, and you'll see what I mean. Fanny hasn't really changed much, and even faggot hasn't transitioned completely.

GhostofMammaTJ Tue 30-Oct-12 22:16:12

Well that is racism taken to the extreme!! Clearly it was meant in a ghosty way at halloween!! How on earth could it be taken another?

sausagerolemodel Tue 30-Oct-12 22:17:48

The film The Human Stain is based on this (based on book by Tim Roth). Worth a read/watch. I don't know if it was more commonly used as an insult in the US than UK as I hadn't realised it was used as a derogatory term myself before. In the story a lecturer uses it to describe absent students who he claims he didn't know were black. Controversy ensues and he has to resign but there are a few plot twists and turns.

sausagerolemodel Tue 30-Oct-12 22:18:39

Dur x posted and wrote Tim instead of Philip Roth. Sleepy times I think!

YeahBuddy Tue 30-Oct-12 22:20:57

I'm glad I wasn't just being ignorant. I was about to ask about the TV show Spooks but my question has already been answered grin

Notquite Tue 30-Oct-12 22:21:38

I didn't realise it was a film, sausage.

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