The man sacked for quoting the n-word
Britain must not import America’s racial hysteria.
Cancel culture becomes more cruel by the day. Just take the case of Carl Borg-Neal, the 59-year-old man from Andover, Hampshire who was sacked and shamed by Lloyds bank in 2021 for quoting the word ‘nigger’ during an anti-racism training session.
He didn’t hurl it at a black person. He wasn’t making a casually racist comment, peppered with that most radioactive of slurs. He was asking a question: about what he – as a manager – should do if black members of staff were using slurs to refer to one another.
When the trainer didn’t quite catch his drift, Borg-Neal blurted it out: the n-word. Only he didn’t say ‘the n-word’, he said the full thing – a lapse in judgement he puts down to his dyslexia, which he says can sometimes lead his mouth to get a little ahead of his brain.
What should have been an awkward, jarring moment became grounds for dismissal. Despite no prior history of racist conduct – and it being abundantly clear he meant no harm in saying it – Borg-Neal’s 30 years of service for the bank were unceremoniously ended.
To lose your job is horrendous, to do so while the scarlet letter of racism is impressed upon you is even worse. Borg-Neal was left devastated, his reputation in tatters. He’s now on medication to deal with anxiety. And his physical health has declined following years of stress.
With backing from the Free Speech Union (FSU), Borg-Neal fought back against Lloyds and won. Last week, an employment tribunal ruled that he was unfairly dismissed and discriminated against on the grounds of his dyslexia, earning him a whopping £500,000 payout.
Good. For years now employers have been sacking people for expressing perfectly reasonable views – or in this case, for breaching some unwritten etiquette – with impunity. Now, thanks to this case and many more like it, many of them backed by the brilliant FSU, bosses now have to think twice. Sacking someone is no longer the easy, cost-free option when controversy arises.
But in any sane society, Borg-Neal would never have had to endure what he has. Everyone in that session knew he wasn’t being racist. Some of his colleagues spoke up for him. And yet he was given a dressing down by the trainer – who improbably claimed to have been ‘badly distressed’ by the ordeal – and handed his P45.
The cult of oversensitivity has ushered in a new age not of tolerance and understanding, but of bad faith and vindictiveness. What other way could we describe the behaviour of that ‘anti-racism’ trainer, who took almost a week off work after the incident? We need to start calling bullshit on these crybullies.
The n-word is a toxic word with a toxic history. You wouldn’t want it bandied around your workplace. But there is this thing called context. Quoting it is not the same as saying it to black people to degrade and humiliate them. Just as black people saying it hits rather differently to white people saying it.
But in this case Lloyds felt compelled to pretend otherwise, to play along for fear of having the r-word thrown its way, even though doing so cost a man his livelihood. While Lloyds has been forced to accept that Borg-Neal’s comment was made without malice and was a valid question, it still hasn’t publicly apologised to him.
I fear we are importing a very American racial hysteria. Barely a month goes by in the states without a confected controversy over the n-word. Academics have been sacked for quoting it from legal texts. Even saying words that sound a bit like the n-word has landed people in trouble. In 2020, a professor in California was suspended for using a Chinese phrase, ‘ne ga’ – a filler phrase like ‘er’ or ‘um’. There is a whole Wikipedia page devoted to ‘Controversies about the word niggardly ’.
Has this monomaniacal language policing ushered in a more harmonious, post-racial society over there? Has it fuck. It has only handed a weapon to histrionic students and bad actors, with which to knock down people they already disliked or wanted to get rid of. This is cruelty – and hysteria – posing as anti-racism. We in Britain should be very careful not to let it in here.
Tom Slater is editor of spiked. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Slater_
Picture by: Facebook.
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