Sport

‘A slur which insults and wounds’: racism is not banter

Azeem Rafiq’s father at Yorkshire CCC yesterday

I am a member of a Facebook group for cricket fans. Over the last few days, there has inevitably been a lot of discussion, some of it very heated, about the racist bullying that Azeem Rafiq has faced at Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC).

If you are not familiar with the story you can read this summary.

An independent investigation found that Rafiq had been a victim of racial harassment and bullying but YCCC refused to release the full report. They also decided not to discipline any staff or players.

A leaked internal document said that a racist term about Rafiq’s Pakistani heritage was regularly used towards him, but the club concluded it was “friendly and good-natured banter”.

One contribution to the facebook discussion, from someone called Amit, struck me as particularly helpful and I wanted to share it:

Over the last few days I’ve read a number of comments which, paraphrasing, equate the term P*ki as equivalent to Aussie/Kiwi etc.

Having had the term thrown at me at various times in my life, I admit to finding that point of view quite hard to stomach – but if our only responses in life are hysterically shouting ‘racist’ or ‘snowflake’ at each other – we ain’t getting anywhere.

So let me please, calmly, say to anyone who doesn’t already know (but is prepared to listen) – it isn’t.

It is a slur that insults and wounds. It carries heavy baggage with it and isn’t just an abbreviation. This isn’t the thin-skinned ranting of some permanently offended wokeist. It’s how I, and all other South Asians, honestly feel.

My 10 year-old boy had it spat at him for the first time recently and he was in tears all night; it visibly affected his self-confidence.

So, even if you find this hard to credit – I ask you, if, like me (and the very very vast majority of people in this country I believe) you are pretty keen to get through life, looking after one’s family and friends and not to hurt anyone unnecessarily – please just take this post as a bit of info, and choose not to use the term or support those that do.

You have an indelible right to free speech – but you also have the right to simply add ‘-stani’ on the (let’s face it, pretty rare) occasions when you actually need to describe someone of Pakistani origin. Not much effort really.

Going to school in 80’s and 90’s Britain I, like many of us I imagine, used all type of horrible phrases to describe (nay, accuse – because that’s what it was at that time) homosexuals. I hope that doesn’t make me homophobic.

But now I know a lot better – if I still choose to use or defend insulting words towards gay people, I think it would make me homophobic. We’re allowed to learn and change.

The Rafiq/YCCC thing is a very tangled mess – and none of us will really ever know all the nuances. But as for the P-word guys, honestly, it’s…er…pretty black and white..

If you’ve come this far with this post, thank you and I apologise in advance if this has come across ‘preachy’. It’s not meant that way.

I’ll finish with a tale from literally just last night. As many of you will know, yesterday was the festival of Diwali. My family joined some local Hindu friends for dinner and fireworks. Three (white) families from across the way came out to enjoy the fireworks. One family even broke into their stash for bonfire night tonight and set off a bunch of their own fireworks on the other side of the brook so that all the kids got a wicked display to enjoy.

This is the Britain I know and belong to and amidst all the hysteria, it’s worth remembering that.

Cheers, and I look forward to getting back to the cricket!

4 thoughts on “‘A slur which insults and wounds’: racism is not banter”

  1. Thanks for posting this John. I was really encouraged by his words “We’re allowed to learn and change”. That seems a gracious and frankly very helpful response. It says to me that we are all part of one human family and we all get stuff wrong but that does not have to be the final answer.

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    1. thanks Mark. Yes, I agree – I felt there was something very helpful about his gracious and thoughtful comment. On a facebook group which is not always hallmarked by graceful and thoughtful discussion, it was very well received and I think served to challenge a lot of the knee-jerk reactions. thanks for reading and commenting.

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  2. I’m totally with Amit on this one. I’m old enough to have gone to school in the 1970s and the Friday night ‘entertainment’ for the skinheads in the class was travelling over to Slough where there was a large Asian population for a bit of P*ki bashing. I associate the word with a cruel and belittling form of racism which brings back bad memories – indeed shame – of the white society I was part of that allowed this brutality to persist for far too long.

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    1. thanks for this reminder of that culture Jeremy. It reminds me of my school culture in the 80s where the word was also used carelessly and in jokes etc but always with a clear edge of spite and contempt. As Amit says, no one can honestly claims its ‘just’ an abbreviation

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