It’s time to take a stand

Andrew Symonds… a victim of racial taunts or is he simply being precious?-AP ?

Of humanity’s many faces, racism is the ugliest. And it can take many forms, black against white, brown against black, white against yellow and so forth. None can be excused. None can be ignored, writes Peter Roebuck.

Andrew Symonds…

Racism is the plague of the world. Every truly great man of history has stood against it, and all have failed to eradicate it. Still it endures, hateful, loveless, limiting. Like all diseases, it comes and goes but never entirely disappears, eating away at immature brains, unsettling nations, creating divisions founded upon suspicion and superficiality.

Of humanity’s many faces, it is the ugliest. And it can take many forms, black against white, brown against black, white against yellow and so forth. None can be excused. None can be ignored.

Accordingly it is not merely right for Indian cricket to confront racist behaviour whenever it arises, it is essential. Indeed it was a mistake to wait so long to take action. No shame lies in the detection of prejudice. Every country has its burdens. Far more danger lies in ignoring matters that may at the outset appear minor, a handful of people in a vast crowd. At such times a game and a country define themselves. It is necessary to recognise the threat, and to acknowledge that from little things big things may grow. It is important for cricket to take a stand everywhere.

That Indian crowds have hitherto been known more for overexcitement and despair than racism is beside the point. That India itself has in recent years revealed sufficient greatness to choose as its political leaders a Muslim, a Sikh and a Catholic woman of Italian descent gives a truer indication of national sentiment than the rudeness of the few. But that does not allow complacency. That Australia’s most respected leader comes from Lebanon did not stop the beachside riots. It is not possible to relax in the face of this threat. Nor is it wise to take even its most banal expressions lightly.

It has in some quarters been argued that Andrew Symonds and company are being precious and that Australians are trying to show they are also sometimes victims. Darrell Hair’s collapsed case against wrongful dismissal depended on racial prejudice. But is not the law open to all comers? If Symonds, Hair or anyone else feels they have been mistreated owing to the colour of their skin then let the matter be investigated. Symonds has not railed against every provocation. Just this one.

That Australian crowds have hardly been blameless is irrelevant. When was it that two wrongs started to make a right? The release of a government report confirming that racism often rears its nasty little head at sporting events staged downunder has brought the issue into the open. The fact of the study shows that Australians are taking the issue seriously. Beyond argument there is a long way to go.

Impassioned debates about racism and religion are inevitable in cricket. Only 10 countries play the game to the highest standard. Amongst them, West Indies did not appoint a black captain till 1960, Australia did not include aborigines in the register till 1967, Pakistan and India have been as often at war as peace, Sri Lanka has endured a longstanding ethnic civil war, South Africa is emerging from the shadow of apartheid and England was a colonial power associated with white rule. It may be the best loved game. It is also the most ungovernable.

Racism is wrong. It is simple. Cricket of all games must not tolerate it. Happily the authorities have intervened. Now it is up to the players. It has been a confrontational tour. Tongues have been wagging. Both captains must condemn excesses, especially those taking place on their watch.