Wednesday, May 11, 2005

"Nigger, nigger" monkey chanted the Europeans, who are ever lecturing Americans on their alleged racism

As the team coaches arrived for the match and the [soccer] players made their way into the [Madrid] stadium, scores of fans rushed up to the wire fence and shouted 'nigger, nigger' at Daniel Kome, a Cameroon midfielder and Getafe's only black player
writes Martin Jacques in The Guardian.
For some bizarre reason, even during the warm-up, Kome was to be seen training on his own, away from the rest of the squad.

… 'It is well known,' says [Marcelino Bondjale, who was born in Equatorial Guinea, a former Spanish colony], 'that any time a black player gets the ball, there is monkey chanting — this is the norm. When monkey chanting starts, part of the crowd is silent, the other joins in. And nobody ever does anything. No one has ever been prosecuted for monkey chanting. The police can be standing two metres away and they never intervene.'

…minorities remain deeply isolated in Spanish society, especially the Africans, who live on the edge of the economy in a twilight world of casualised labour. The gypsies, who number almost a million, have been outcasts for centuries. The Spaniards, with their fingers in their ears and their eyes firmly shut, remain in denial.

The racism that blights Spanish football is not unique: on the contrary, in some degree or another, it exists in every European country. … The most obvious previous occasion was the Euro 2004 qualifier in October 2002 between England and Slovakia in Bratislava when the crowd — in a country with barely any black people — erupted seemingly to a person in racist abuse, including even the stretcher-bearers.

…But Europe is a continent suffused with prejudice. Its status and identity, its history and sense of self, has, over centuries, been intimately bound up with a sense of racial and cultural supremacy. White skin became the signifier and affirmation of superiority. As a result of colonialism, much of the rest of the world was subject to its influence and fiat, often in barbaric forms. No continent suffered more than Africa, first through the slave trade and then in the imperial carve-up of the late 19th century. If white was the metaphor for superiority, black, in the European mind, became the code for inferiority…

The reason why football has become the fault line of European racism is not simply because it is the popular male discourse bar none, but because, far more than in any other activity, black and brown people are present in large numbers and, as players, are the subjects of our emotions and passions. The football stadium — like nowhere else in society — brings white men, in the form of the crowd (the latter everywhere in Europe remains overwhelmingly white), into contact with black men, the players. Football, like nothing else, confronts European society with its own history, culture and prejudice. It is a racial cauldron.

Martin Jacques, a former editor of Marxism Today and a regular contributor to Observer Sport Monthly, ends his piece with evidence that
It doesn't just happen in Spain
Thanks to Jonathan Baum, whose comment cuts to the chase: "One has to wonder how Europeans who regularly attack the US over its supposedly racist society can square this with their own behavior towards dark-skinned people in their own back yard. Can you imagine anything remotely similar happening to black American athletes?"

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