This is our truth, tell us yours
A friend tweeted last night, correctly, about the marginalization of ethnic minorities in Europe, including Europe’s white ethnic minorities who, in the words of one of the Twitterati, were relegated to non-white status.
Among the list quoted were the Welsh. This brought some sceptical bitebacks from someone I don’t know, and what turned into a Twitter storm of minor ferocity in which, as usual, no-one was hurt, a few people were offended, faces were palmed, and a lot of electrons were needlessly inconvenienced.
Sad to say, I’m not sure anyone brought up the etymology of the word Welsh. There was plenty about the Welsh Not, and people being caned at school for speaking Welsh, and kids not being taught their own language, even in progressive comprehensive schools in Wales, but nothing about the meaning of the word.
Welsh derives from the Anglo Saxon word for foreigner. It was also, in some readings, a synonym for slave, or barbarian.
The way in which many of my friends intervened was fascinating, and heart warming, but at heart was this blind spot. The English call the Welsh foreigners, because they conquered them and took possession of their land. Names can carry a huge amount of history in just a few letters and one syllable, and even when the subject of a pejorative name adopts it as their own, it pays dividends to walk carefully around it.
As someone pointed out in the Twitterspat, there are plenty of people can speak more clearly for Wales than me, and, as an internationalist, I will reserve my right to disagree with them. But to try and deny the history of a relationship exemplified by the English calling their neighbours foreigners in their own land is fuckwittery of the highest order.