21 December 2011

Justice

Terry and Suarez shake hands before Chelsea's game with Liverpool
This post is inspired by recent news about two top English Premier League footballers. In a Liverpool v Man United match, the brilliant Uruguayan striker - Luis Suarez is alleged to have fired the Spanish term "negrito" at the black French defender Patrice Evra while in a Chelsea versus Queens Park Rangers game, former England captain John Terry is alleged to have called the defender Anton Ferdinand a "black bastard". Suarez, never questioned by the authorities, has been given an eight match ban while Terry's case is now in the hands of the police and may advance to trial in a court of law.

Let me start by saying I abhor any form of racism, just as I abhor any kind of prejudice based on age, class, disability, income, gender or intellectual prowess. In my book we are all equal. The roadsweeper or the film star, the professor or the beggar - I wouldn't look down or up at any of them. They are my equals. But I think that the way that Suarez and Terry have been treated is over the top. Their unpleasant insults happened in the heat of sporting battles and though reprehensible, the official  responses they met should have been tempered with rather more common sense.

When I was a boy, I noticed how children had a habit of digging away at other children's differences. Kids who wore glasses were "specky four eyes", red haired kids were "carrot tops", fat kids were "Fatty". Even in adult life, such ribbing based on people's differences is quite commonplace but it's only when the issue of race - especially skin colour - is addressed that hackles of justice are raised. There's a sense that authorities, business and sporting organisations are eager to appear politically correct by stomping on suspected racism like the seventeenth century burghers of Salem, Massachusetts

I have never been inside the heads of either Suarez or Terry to discern whether or not they are truly racist but as footballers they have each grown up alongside talented black players, sat side-by-side with them in dressing rooms, walked out with them onto the pitch, embraced them in goal celebrations. In the heat of battle, unwise things may be said, unwarranted insults voiced. Does such stupidity deserve the weight of so-called justice that has descended on these two players? I think not. Warnings and opportunities to apologise would have been the  sensible way forward.

In towns and cities all over the world, ordinary citizens endure a great deal of unpleasantness that never attracts close scrutiny from authorities. Yet here we have two high profile footballers who haven't hit anybody, haven't vandalised anyone's property, haven't caused persistent night-time disturbances or defrauded the taxman but despite that they find themselves pilloried, charged with racism, embroiled in costly legal battles to clear their names. I shake my head. The world has gone mad.

9 comments:

  1. It has indeed, YP. I have been convinced of that for some time.

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  2. Although I'm prejudiced in my own way of course.

    The issue of race is a far more complex one- just because the likes of Terry and Suarez play with gifted black players.

    Terry especially is a nasty little vile scroat (oh the irony!) and I have no doubt he is inherently racist.

    Which leads me onto my most controversial statement and that is that most white people are inherently racist and 'in the heat of the battle' that cultural oneupmanship just comes out.

    I don't disagree with anything you've said though, however I would disagree vehemently with the idea that they are just 'disciplined'.

    There really is no reason to use any adjectives- even in the heat of battle.

    The hatred that is specifically designed for race is one that is deep-rooted and all the rest to do with disability, gender and especially sexual orientation pale into insignificance.

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  3. BB, isn't everyone racist from their own home turf? It seems a human thing, as YP pointed out, to elevate ourselves in our own minds by belittling someone else. Is that not the case in non-white nations?

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  4. Perhaps Bangkok Boothys is a tad racist himself.

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  5. Racism is prevalent everywhere and not necessarily colour specific.

    Of that I am not disagreeing.

    I even admit that i am not without my own internal culturally socialised discriminations- either for my own self-esteem or what I've learned.

    But I'm not unique- everyone is- but it doesn't make it right.

    If you have been or been close to someone who is discriminated against for their difference- the least we can expect is that they feel bad afterwards or are made to feel bad.

    The money the likes of Terry et al earn and the role models they are should make them whiter than white...

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  6. Yes, the world has gone mad! Nothing is right and nothing is wrong any more, and if it isn't today, it will be tomorrow! Ironically, I'm listening to the Hallelujah Chorus right now, being sung half a world away -- Norway. Would that we could find some of that confident steadfastness in all the world around us.

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  7. I have mixed feelings about the whole business.

    I watched the Liverpool/United game and Evra was clearly very angry about what had been said to him, but Suarez kept on saying it.

    And how someone reacts to what is said is the point here. To take your examples of the kid with red hair or glasses, if calling them 'carrot top' or 'speccy four eyes' makes them cry, is it okay to carry on doing it? Or is it a form of abuse?

    I don't know enough about the John Terry case, except for two things. First, what he is alleged to have called Ferdinand was rather worse than 'black bastard' and it would have been the second bit that I would have taken exception to, but then I'm not black.

    Second, the complaint to the police was made by a member of the public, so the had to act. (Or be accused of institutionalised racism?)

    Suarez happily admitted what he had said in the media after the event and his case was dealt with by the FA, rather than the courts, although the panel was independent and chaired by a QC.

    Having said that, I also think the eight match ban was over the top and he should have simply apologised to Evra after the match, shook hands and that could have been the end of it. And he would have learned a cultural lesson.

    A separate issue for me is that they are still both playing pending the appeal/court case. Not a luxury any other employee would be permitted.

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  8. Mr. Shooting Parrots, Ian, sir, his case was dealt with by the FA?

    And the independent panel was chaired by a QC?

    'Tis a foreign language you are speaking.

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  9. Sorry Mr Plague. FA = Fottball Association, the governing body of the sport.

    QC = Queen's Counsel or senior lawyer and not someone representing a Yorkshire transvestite as is sometimes assumed.

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