A lot has been made of the monkey chants that have been heard in the last three ODIs of the recently concluded ODI series between India and Australia. We have written on this blogsite too and denounced the monkey chants and monkey signs. The goons who perpetrated these acts have to be dealt with severely. The racist taunts were despicable and Symonds is owed an apology by the BCCI. Of that, I have no doubt. Mukul Kesavan writes about this eloquently in his Cricinfo Blog.
But, having said that, I have been to games in Australia where I have endured racist taunts hurled at me. When I said this to a friend of mine of Anglo-Saxon origin, she said, “Serve you right for watching the game in Bay-13 of the G”! But that misses the point. Just as people who have been quick to point out that Symonds ‘brought it on himself’ by behaving as an arrogant guest have missed the point, my friend missed the point too.
A zero-tolerance policy of racism would suggest that the victim can never be blamed for flagrant acts of racism perpetrated against them. Period.
Now, I am not being precious. I can take racist taunts hurled at me on the chin. After all, who am I in the total scheme of things.
But what do you make of taunts being hurled at the Indian players? Have the Lalors of this world ever written about it — either in disgust or by way of an apology?
“You’re going home on the back of an elephant” is a chant that one hears often when Indian players get out. Is that racist? Perhaps? Perhaps not.
But, is “You drive a taxi“, a racist chant? Indian players get it all the time. I do believe that this, and chants like “You are a curry muncher” are racist taunts. Players get it all the time when they travel to Australia. And if it happens in the Australian summer, it won’t be the first time that it happens.
I suspect that no one has said anything about these and other chants that one hears in grounds in Australia. I suspect that Indian fans and cricketers have often just shrugged their shoulders and moved on.
Indian players can expect to get a mouthful when they visit Australia later on this year. Meanwhile, I can expect Lalors’ passionate outpourings to turn solely to cricket and an occasional reference to a bad decision that Australia copped. Meanwhile, one can expect that bad decisions that India cops to be, of course, accompanied by the “Oh! It is such a tough job for the umpires” line!
Ponting was a bit more polished on arriving back in Australia today. He has even perhaps indrectly requested the Australian crowds to target Sreesanth! He said, “I’m sure at different times Sree Santh and a couple of the guys will cop a hard time from the Australian public. That generally happens to most teams who tour here at some stage. I just hope, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that no racial stuff at all comes up during the summer.”
Ponting needs to be told, perhaps, that if racial taunts come up this summer, it won’t be, in my books, the first time that it does!
Like Ponting, I too hope that there are no racist taunts when India tour Australia this summer. But this is, I am quite sure, a forlorn hope. I don’t believe that even John “I am the only true optimist in Australia” Howard, can eradicate racism away from Australian cricket crowds. It has existed for years. It will continue to exist.
Sajid Mahmood, the English cricket player, wrote in his blog about the “You can’t be English” racist taunts he heard when he toured Australia with the English team last year for The Ashes series. Other players have felt similarly. Ask the South Africans.
After all, what is a racist chant? I believe that it is a slogan that magnifies a persons’ unique difference (cultural, race, colour, ethnicity or any other distinctive feature) as a chant/slogan/gesture/gesticulation against the person with an intent to cause hurt and anguish. Now, I am not a social anthrpologist. So, someone more knowledgeable may want to comment on that definition. But, in my view, the above is a working definition that could be used as a test in most chants/gestures.
In a landmark ruling in 2003, a judge convicted a 21-year old Port Vale fan of a criminal offence under the 1991 Football (Offences) Act, for using a chant that contained the word “Paki” at Oldham Athletic supporters during a football league match. The term “Paki” is derogatory. So also, “You drive a taxi” or “You’re going home on the back of an elephant“.
The treatment that Symonds received in India is unquestionably deplorable. However, I hope the authorities in Australia take note of the fact that, if racial stuff happens this summer, it will not be revenge. It will merely be a continuation of an existing practice.