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Race Row Breaks Out Over 'Ridiculous' Road Name

Dominic Smithers

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Race Row Breaks Out Over 'Ridiculous' Road Name

The name of a road has caused a huge race row to break out in a Yorkshire town.

Kaffir Road in Huddersfield has found itself at the the centre of a debate between politicians and residents over recent weeks.

Local Labour MP Barry Sheerman says it should be renamed as it is an incredibly offensive term for some people in the community.

The word has long been used as a racist slur against black people in Africa, in particular South Africa, where it is regarded as hate speech.

Speaking about the issue, Mr Sheerman said it was time for a change.

He said: "All over the country people are looking at the history of some of the facts of our history and its links to slavery.

"I'm not the most woke person in the world but Kirklees Council said they would look at any particular aspects and this Kaffir Road does come up time and time again. It's a very familiar road.

Barry Sheerman says it's time for change. Credit: Huddersfield Examiner/MEN Media
Barry Sheerman says it's time for change. Credit: Huddersfield Examiner/MEN Media

"It has got to the stage where the council has to show some leadership and in this year of the Queen's Platinum Jubilee I think it's an appropriate time to have a look at what is a historically abusive term for certain minorities.

"It is time we renamed it as it is offensive to a significant number of people. I know people who visit Huddersfield and say: 'How can you still have that name?'"

One Muslim resident who currently lives on the street backed the idea to rename it, explaining: "I don't like the name, it's offensive and I would like to see it changed."

However, there are others who feel as though a mountain is being made out of a molehill.

John Ward, a retired accountant who has lived on the street for almost 50 years, said: "I think the talk of a name change is ridiculous.

"All this was brought up in the Huddersfield Examiner back in 1982 and fizzled out soon afterwards. It's part of the history of the area."

Calls for the road to be renamed are not new. Credit: Huddersfield Examiner/MEN Media
Calls for the road to be renamed are not new. Credit: Huddersfield Examiner/MEN Media

The last time the issue was raised by Kirklees Council, Mr Ward wrote to them saying that it was a 'part of history'.

He told the council that it was a term for people in the eastern part of South Africa, as well as the language of the Kaffirs and inhabitants of Kafiristan in Afghanistan.

"I suggest that if any person is offended by being referred to as a Kaffir, then he, in turn, is denouncing the people who bear that name," he wrote.

"Secondly, the name of the road was probably established before the birth of anyone alive today and is no doubt recorded in the old books and documents of the former authorities.

"Therefore, it is a part of the history of the area and as such should retain its name."

Echoing Mr Ward's thoughts on the matter, fellow local resident Naeem Sarwar said: "I get where people are coming from and I know it offends some people but I am not bothered about it.

John Ward, however, thinks the idea is 'ridiculous'. Credit: Huddersfield Examiner/MEN Media
John Ward, however, thinks the idea is 'ridiculous'. Credit: Huddersfield Examiner/MEN Media

"It is not something I lie awake at night worrying about."

According to David Griffiths, a local historian and leading member of Huddersfield Civic Society, the name of the road has a dark past.

He said: "The road was laid out in the 1850s by the landowner, Thomas Thornhill.

"His nephews, Bryan and Henry Thornhill, had both recently served in the Eighth Kaffir War, which ended with the final defeat of the Ciskei Xhosa in February 1853.

"Kaffir is a derogatory term similar to the 'N-word', and the Kaffir Wars are now known as the Xhosa Wars."

If the road is to be renamed, there are currently two options in the running: Holliday Road and Ibbotson Road.

Read Holliday was a 19th century pioneer of the chemical industry in Huddersfield, while Derek Ibbotson was an Olympian athlete, who lived there.

Featured Image Credit: Huddersfield Examiner/MEN Media

Topics: UK News, Politics, Racism

Dominic Smithers
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