By Amelia Riley
25,000 signatures have convinced Kirklees Council to “look carefully” at the potential renaming of Kaffir Road in Huddersfield.
Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman made the request for the road name to be changed, and a petition by African Caribbean community organisation leaders and the wider community in Huddersfield launched a fortnight ago, already reaching almost 25,000 signatures.
An explanation of the word underlines the petition, describing the noun as being “used by Muslims as a pejorative term for a person who does not follow Islam”. It was later “adopted by white colonialists to describe black Africans.”
“By the 20th century, ‘kaffir’ was widely understood to be a slur. Its power to insult and offend only grew in apartheid-era South Africa, so much so that its use became legally actionable,” it adds.
“It is the only street in the entire UK with this name.”
The community backing the petition is pursuing support “to force the local authority to have the courage to act.”
However, due to an “underwhelming” response from residents of the road, the petition has not achieved its target of securing two-thirds of residents’ support to change the name.
Mr Sheerman says the word is “a remnant of a dreadful time.”
Kirklees Council’s Cabinet Member for Learning, Aspiration and Communities, Carole Pattison, said that the council was aware of the petition and would “look carefully at all the issues raised” once it had a receipt of it.
“We don’t know how the road gained its name or the context and meaning behind it as it was named in 1861.
“Regardless of its original meaning, some words take on unacceptable connotations over time as their usage changes. As a council we need to respond to those changes in a sensitive way that engages with local people and their experiences.
“An important part of the formal process for renaming roads is to listen to local views and take account of all the evidence before deciding how to proceed.
“Once we have received the petition, we will start those important conversations.”