Sunday, January 06, 2008

Indian Cricket Player Harbhajan Singh Suspended for Racist Remarks Against Australian Player

The BBC reported that Harbhajan Singh (pictured left) , a member of the Indian cricket team was found guilty of calling Australian cricket player Andrew Symonds a "monkey" during a recent match between the two teams.

Referee Mike Proctor found Singh guilty after a four-hour official hearing. Symonds is the only non-white player on the Australian team, which beat India by 122 runs.

This is not the first time Indian cricket players and fans have vented their frustrations by using racial slurs and gestures against the 32 year-old Symonds, who as born to West Indian parents in England. Singh's suspension comes on the heels of four Indian fans being banned from a one day international match in Mumbai (Bombay) back in October.

Photographs submitted to officials showed fans using monkey gestures when Symonds came up to bat, both Symonds and Australian team captain Ricky Ponting have lodged complaints of gestures and monkey chants by Indians fans in earlier matches - charges Indian cricket officials dismissed as a "cultural misunderstanding".

Singh is no stranger to controversy, besides his offensive on-field behavior he was sharply criticized by Sikh leaders in January 2006 for removing the traditional head-covering worn by Sikh men in an ad for Royal Stag Whiskey.

While the actions of a few fans certainly do not reflect the views of all Indians, on more than one occasion I have personally experienced subtle and overt prejudiced behavior by men of Indian descent driving cabs or working in bodegas here in New York.

Racism is infectious and I think some Indians, who themselves experienced prejudice because of their status in India's notorious caste system, sometimes project their resentment on African Americans in this nation as they all too quickly absorb the negative perceptions that result from the entrenched racism in this country.


Greg Hardwick said...

It was interesting to read your blog on the cricket test in Australia. As an Australian with an ancestry dating back to Irish prisoners, I have been slightly perplexed that the majority of criticism has been focused upon the Australian team and not the Indian cricketers and specifically the, quite clearly, racist comment. Comments on various blogs from Canada to South Africa also focused on the Australian cricket team and their behaviour and at times took the larger step by including all Australians in their criticism. Perhaps it is because the Australian cricket team is good, in fact one of the best teams in the history of the game? But I also suspect it is media driven, which in turn fuels an ill-informed view of Australians in general. Perhaps it is also the fact that Australia has a peaceful past (excluding the English treatment of convicts and Aboriginals) and that other nations are quick to find wrong and slow to show support, purely out of envy? English cricket fans and tourists alike, each year, still proudly sing songs and make remarks hailing Australians as "convict scum" (in today's world our convicts would be called political prisoners), a remark which would surely be considered abhorant if only our ancestors had coloured skin...
Let's just hope that, in the future, the media and general public will help stamp out racism in all its forms and allow no room for "cultural" excuses.

CG said...

Really insightful observation, thanks for sharing your thoughts and perspective.

A lot of people internalize assumptions about Australians and incidents like this illustrate how perception can distort the truth.

Australian dominance of the sport definitely brings increased attention and past infractions by their players can merge with cultural envy or other emotions and
become catalysts or triggering incidents that unleash realities that are often uncomfortable for people to express.

I've met people in New York who say Australians are generally prejudiced to people of color.

That goes against my personal experiences and encounters with Australians. People who've never even been there let alone know someone from the country casually toss baseless stereotypes like that that around.

The reaction by Indian layers officials and fans reflects the tone of prejudice that has and does exist in Indian culture - as it does in many cultures.

It just seems like the media doesn't focus on it that much. With all the outsourcing of labor Indians have gained a reputation of being a "model" culture.

Like many just assume Asians are good at math.

It strikes me as one of the uncomfortable truths people know about but avoid talking about.