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Is the Romanian word ‘negru’ a racist insult?

John Barnes doesn’t think so

By Ricky Browne

John Barnes, the English football player of Jamaican decent got into a huge twitter storm as he tried to defend the right of a Romanian football official to refer to a team official as ‘negru.’

The incident that kicked it off was a football game in Paris, between French side Paris St Germain (PSG) and Turkish side Istanbul Basaksehir on December 8.

Pierre Webo

The game descended into chaos at one point when a Turkish coach – Pierre Webo — got a red card. The Romanian coach wasn’t sure who it was who should get the card, so a fourth official — Sebastian Coltescu –also Romanian, indicated who it should be by saying ‘ ala Negru”.

Negru is the Romanian word for black and the term ‘ala Negru’ means ‘the black one.”

This caused a huge problem, with players taking offence at the official using a word that sounded a lot like Negro — which apart from being a term that is now considered racist in English, is also the Spanish word for black.

WEBO.. do you have to say this black guy?

“Why, when you mention a black guy, do you have to say this black guy?” — asked Webo, originally from Cameroon and a former Chelsea player.

After only 13 minutes of play, players from both sides left the field in disgust. And the game was not finished. UEFA is investigating.

Barnes’s first tweet on the issue was simple enough:

“Here is the coaching staff at istanbul… 1 of them is going to be sent off and the ref asks the 4th official which one should he send off… can anyone tell me how he should identify him as he doesnt know their names, and they arent wearing numbers, other than THE BLACK ONE?” Barnes tweeted early on Wednesday morning.

BARNES… its NOT racist to describe the offender as the black one

His tweet included a link to an image witht he photos of all 8 coaches for the Turkish team, only one of whom is black — Webo.

One thousand people liked the tweet and it got 340 comments and counting. And his name started trending on Twitter.

As the debate got a little more heated, Barnes doubled down.

“Its NOT racist to describe the offender as the black one! We are telling people to call us black.. he doesnt know his name there are 6/7 coaches standing together all turkish .. 1 is to be sent off , the ref says which one THE BLACK ONE what else can he say to let the ref know?” tweeted Barnes .

 BARNES: He didn’t say negro… he said negru which is black in Romanian. Photograph: Fabio De Paola/The Guardian

Jamaican-born Johnnie Barnes is a former England national football team star who earned 79 caps for England in his career. He’s also played for Watford, Liverpool and Newcastle United an finally Cartlton Athletic. He currently works as a commentator for ESPN. He also managed the Jamaican national team from 2008 to 2009.

Many people just though Barnes had got it wrong, campaigner against racism or not.

“I’m sorry @officialbarnesy on this one you wrong. There are many ways to identify someone without referring to race. The fact is that generally white people are never referenced like that,” said Jamaicanblend@judgedbyme21 — a person who clearly has never grown up in Jamaica as a white person such as the person writing this story.

A week barely goes by, when I haven’t been referred to as the white guy, in a country where the population is less than one percent white. To not be referred to as “whitey” was always a pleasure. As for my friends of Chinese or Indian origin, they have to happily accept being referred to as “Chiney” or “Coolie”. No offence must be taken, the argument being that no offence is meant.

“We have to stop associating EVERYTHING related to black as negative in EVERY context, we TELL people not to call us coloured call us black then complain when they do? If he said black bastard or something similar thats obvious,but if he just said “the black one” descriptively,” tweeted Barnes.

Barnes kicks away a banana peel while playing a game for Liverpool

Barnes is no strange to racism. In his career Barnes he has been on the receiving end of much racist abuse from English football fans, and has had to kick aside not just verbal insults, but the occasional banana peel on pitch. He is often sought after for this thoughts on racisim and discrimination in society.

Throughout the day Barnes continued to battle his case, and made more than 100 more tweets on the issue, arguing with people that thought the term Negru was racist.

Towards the end of the storm, one person tweeted:

“And I believe everyone in the the footballing world, due to diversity should know that the word negro is offensive to all black people regardless of what context it is used in. The referee of all people should know this. Now peeps just justifying it.” That was from Dan V@harlo786.

But Barnes wasn’t having it;

Barnes on the ball

“He didnt say negro… he said negru which is black in romanian.. are you so arrogant as to say to romanians to change their word for black man because it sounds like negro…” Barnes tweeted.

“Its not context its language and used correctly,if you dont know his name, he is the black one … and you dont have to know the name of the staff,” Barnes said in another tweet..

In an earlier tweet he got to the heart of the problem.

“Why would describing someone as black potentially incite trouble, is calling someone black insulting?” Barnes tweeted.

And then after getting some back-up from Romanian readers, he tweeted:

“Thanx to all the romanians getting in touch to tell me they heard the whole thing in THEIR language and it translates as “THAT BLACK GUY OVER THERE” when the 4th official is asked by the ref who to go over to… sounds racist to you?!?… but what do those romanians know ? Eh”

The debate continues.

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