Posted by: nestaquin | February 5, 2009

Brendan Nash: On Matters of Melanin

brendanOne of the most regrettable and frightening aspects about ignorance is that once revealed and generally accepted it spreads among the lazy and moronic with such veracity that rational argument and indisputable evidence are as helpless and ignored as a terrified weeping infant in a shelled Tamil hospital.

Such is the nature of herd mentality, and I accept and acknowledge its instinctual imperative and the avoidable suffering it causes not only to ourselves but the environment that sustains us.

It is, after all,  part and parcel of the world we inhabit.

While I have no desire to imitate Professor Richard Dawkins, there is a fallacious meme that has permeated the articulate cricket community that deserves challenging and condemnation.

Throughout the blogsphere and the mainstream press in the last few months many chroniclers of the game have exclaimed, some with pompous delight, that Jamaican conceived and Australian raised cricketer Brendan Nash is the first white (whatever that means) player to wear the maroon cap for decades.

Their articles are so obviously racially motivated it illuminates much more about the writers’ minds and motives than they would normally be prepared to reveal. Labelling people by the colour of their skin is just plain dense and as history continues to show, potentially dangerous. Even in a sporting sense.

Rather than give a lesson on genetics, evolution, eugenics or the political invention of the term race perhaps an example of its hypocrisy and ridiculousness would be more appropriate and far more entertaining.

Bob Marley has the exact same parental mix as Brendan Nash; a father of indigenous European stock and a mother of African ancestry. It is only the fascinating elegance of their respective genetic make-ups that makes one fairer than the other.

Perhaps Bob describes it best when he paraphrases parts of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie’s famous 1963 address to the United Nations:

Until the colour of a man’s skin

Is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes

Everywhere is war

I sincerely ask all readers of 99.94 to challenge this hypocrisy in regards to Brendan Nash wherever they find it. Be bold, be brave, use the Bob Marley analogy and challenge the ignorant. It is insulting to Brendan’s family and degrades all of us collectively.

Stay Human.

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Responses

  1. I agree with that.

    But there is a debate in England about why Owais Shah is consistently ignored by Test selectors in favour of Ian Bell – failed again today. There was a forthright exchange between my close colleague Mouth of the Mersey and a MikeDaniels here – http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/blog/2009/jan/27/cricket-england-west-indies-owais-shah.

    My point there is not that race plays a part in selectors’ decisions, but that race, for all of it being a scientific myth, is bound up with culture and culture is bound up with the way one interacts with the world and the way the world interacts with oneself.

    A one size fits all “Team England Bubble” may not suit people coming from different cultures – I know that the tiny discomfort I felt as a vegetarian at tea when I played was real and must be insignificant compared to how a young Asian lad may feel pitching up for his first day inside the Team England Bubble.

    Owais Shah is often ascribed abstract flaws in personality or attitude. The same was said of Usman Afzaal and sometimes of Ravi Bopara (I think) and was said of the young Nasser Hussain. It is also said of English cricketers who do not have Asian heritage.

    So my plea is to treat the amount of melanin in skin for what it is – irrelevant. But to acknowledge that every player is an individual and that individual comes with attitudes and approaches shaped by culture, social class, education and lots of other factors. Whilst we stay human, we also stay as human beings, wonderfully different, wonderfully united by this great game of ours.

  2. I think you may have gone a bit over the top here Nesta. I have heard more about the height of Sulimenn Benn than I have the whiteness of Nash. When a player is different than the normal cookie cutter we are used to, we mention it. Whether it’s Mendis, Benn, or Nash.

    Nash is the first import to play for their test team in a long time, he is white, and what else about him is worth mentioning? He hasn’t done anything really.

    His race is part of the story, as his father being an olympic swimmer, his history for queensland, and the fact he has to try and fit in a place where he receives sledges like this, “‘Go home, white boy, you’re no good. You couldn’t make it there, so why are you here?’.

    It’s all part of his story. I don’t see it as any different from the original stories about Andrew Symonds, when he first played it was often mentioned about his heritage. KP is another example, I can’t think of a player who has had his heritage mentioned more than KP.

    When that is the story they run with it, over the years their background fades away, and new stories come up about sacking coaches and getting drunk.

    If Bob Marley played cricket for the west indies now, the story would be, ex musician comes back from the grave, has dreadlocks, and keeps the players entertained during rain intervals.

  3. Mouth – I kept out of the discussion with MikeD because I’ve had run ins with him before and I thought it best not to get myself banned.

    But I’ll say there’s been copious words written by Mike Selvey and others that all plainly suggest Monty (as a non-drinker, non-gambler) in particular has found it hard to find a place in the Team England bubble.

    And tellingly, despite him having a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, there’s a background campaign from people around the setup and people like MikeD to brand Monty as “too thick for the England setup.”

  4. Metatone – That’s a much more succinct way of making my point. Thanks.

  5. I didn’t know Nash was mixed-race, but then he’s not a player I’ve as yet spent much time considering. Of course, go back far enough and pretty much everyone who’s played for the West Indies will have mixed racial ancestors.

    The point about players of Asian background not always feeling entirely comfortable in the dressing room is an interesting one. I know that there was some concern amongst supporters about how Adil Rashid would fit in to the Yorkshire set up when he first made to team. This was based on the team being seen out and about in Scarborough during his debut game, with the rest of the lads drinking away in a bar whilst Adil, a rather young looking 18 year old at the time, nursed a soft drink. Subsequently it’s not proved to be a problem.

    Then again, the idea that Asian lads might feel uncomfortable in that environment is based on the idea that they’re teetotal, non-gambling, non-swearing, rather serious young men. Perhaps Monty fits that stereotype, but I’ve met plenty that don’t.

  6. Len – So have I. But they often come from a family and cultural background that casts that traditional bonding ritual in a different light than it would be for a lad whose dad and his dad’s dad etc etc did all that.

  7. Jrod, I never imagined that anyone would raise their head from the flock and bleat their disapproval.

    Seeing that you have voluntarily, may I ask just what race would Nash be? The correct and indisputable answer is human but I am curious for your description.

    I know that any answer given will only reveal prejudice. So if you’d like to pass that’s fine with me. It is not my intention to publicly humiliate you.

    Also, describing a person by heritage or culture is completely different than using the volume of pigment produced by an individual’s melanocytes as a descriptive indicator.

    For example, after a week in Port Douglas I turn a gorgeous golden brown while my sister becomes a nasty pink with brown spots. We are of the same family yet anyone can see that we are of a different hue.

    Could you describe for me what qualities other than albinism a man needs to earn the title white? And while your at it, black too. And how do you label the vast majority who inhabit the vast spectrum in between?

    If you’d like a pass on that one too I’ll understand.

    The truth is that when you label a man white it’s not his colour that you are revealing. It is something far more sinister and much closer to home.

    Arbitrarily chopping humanity into pieces serves to only diminish our collective potential and encourage division. It’s a nutter’s paradise and for a writer to knowingly choose to use those terms, grossly irresponsible.

    There are more accurate methods to describe a player like Nash’s uniqueness without stooping to colour coding.

    You may have never considered the importance of the language you use and the responsibility inherit with being a wordsmith. Words by their very nature are slippery and a writer of quality understands the unbridled power he possesses. It is a privilege and a burden and something you may want to consider.

    As an exercise, why not dispense with colour coding humanity for a while and see if you can invent other methods of description. It’s not difficult, completely painless and it will improve your craft as well.

    Stay Human

  8. Nesta, those are some pretty strong words and perhaps a bit idealistic. There is a danger that you create an unnatural environment where people would rather be politically correct than open and honest. Maybe I’ve not read the same blogs or articles you have, maybe I’m not as sensitive to the issue, but the feeling I get is that when Nash’s parents don’t mind discussing it in the open, I don’t see why other people believe they have the moral authority to stop discussions on the subject.

    My argument is that, sadly, humanity has not yet reached the stage where everyone feels the same about racial equality and that those who have often tried to cross those boundaries realize how important a role education has to play so that we eventually get there. I don’t think it is unnatural or wrong to bring up that the fact that Nash is the only white skinned player in a team of black skinned players and therefore to bring up his heritage, but it would do more harm in this day and age to avoid the issue particularly when the guy has received racial (correct me if there is a better term) abuse.

    Now obviously the issues of race and color, like religion, are always going to invite either strong reactions, or at the very least uncomfortable reactions. But I have to wonder how many of these lazy, moronic and ignorant authors delved as deeply as you had to find the level of sinisterness that you did. Maybe I’d have to go to those blogs to make that judgment on my own, but you probably won’t be too comfortable putting those links up. Because I just wonder, what if they have arrived at that level or maturity where in they see no difference distinguishing between men based on the color of their skin as they would on other features like their height, age or the color of their eyes. Is it wrong for instance to talk about Benn’s height as a distinguishing factor from other spinners, since there is this sinister undertone about how short people do not get as far ahead in life or something like that that was recently published in some journal.

    In other words when you say their motives are racial in nature, that is your opinion based on whatever faculties you used to arrive at that conclusion, and in a sense it betrays your own insecurity about the subject perhaps a lot more than this perceived discrimination.

  9. athettup, Thanks for contributing. There is nothing politically correct about truth. And the truth is that the idea of biogenetically distinct races is a myth and to perpetuate it or even accept it is to wallow in avoidable ignorance.

    As for your analogy about height and other physical differences that cross the entire spectrum of humanity, it is idealistic to believe that when writers use the terms black and white that they are not racially motivated.

    I accept that many do it sub-consciously without intended malice, but that does not excuse it. To be ignorant of one’s ignorance is unfortunately, the malady of the ignorant.

    For example, I could call a man a big blue-eyed bastard and that would be acceptable, perhaps even a term of endearment, but if I inserted the word black in front, it immediately becomes something worse. Darren Lehmann is a prime cricketing example of this and he was duly punished.

    As for Brendan Nash and his appearance, he is shorter than Chris Gayle and many shades lighter but he isn’t actually white. He is a light brown and like all things, changes a tad each day. So it is not his actual skin colour that others are describing, is it?

    As I wrote I have no desire to follow in the footsteps of Professor Dawkins and like many of his opponents I see you have chosen to play the man and not the ball.

    It is truly moronic to equate opinion with logic and science but then again too many minds dwell in darkness not because the light fails to shine, but because they choose not to see it.

  10. I don’t think I ever said there are bio-genetically distinct races, but I do accept that the shades of peoples skin (like their eyes) can be different, is that really untruthful or moronic? Should I therefore not refer to the color of skin because there are sections of people who believe that it too deeply ingrained in racial prejudice?

    The rest of your comments, save the last two paragraphs, are all addressed by the first sentence of the second paragraph in my previous comment. It will take time before these prejudices are overcome and references to skin colour do not naturally have to be associated with perceived racial difference. It is arguable as to whether the quicker route to this eventuality is to outright ban terms, particularly those that reference color that the earliest of men invented without any intended malice, and discussion or to foster discussion that will allow people to objectively arrive at what the majority deem appropriate for each era. I haven’t read up on Dawkins, so you’ve given me something interesting to look up.

    As for your last two paragraphs, I think I’m going to have to let this go Nesta, not because I agree with you but because I’m beginning to sense the kind of fanaticism that could make things take a pretty ugly turn. Your post smacks of elitism and rather regrettably your response seems to take the stance that those who disagree are not smart enough to understand (now where have I heard that recently?) or chose not to understand your view which must be correct, which is a bit ironic. I apologize if any of my comments have been too personal or if they have offended you.

  11. No offence taken. And by my nature and profession I am indeed elite but that doesn’t mean I view myself as above or below any other man or woman. All it suggests is that I have excelled and through hard work and wise decision making I’ve out competed my peers. Mediocrity just doesn’t appeal to me.

    On matters of melanin, I have no problem with people describing another in any way they choose but they need to be accurate.

    As I’ve stated several times the terms black and white are poor descriptors which serve only to embed long held generational prejudice.

    If people were more careful in their expression then the terms wouldn’t need censorship they’d be redundant anyway.

    A better term to describe a man of Nash’s complexion in the context of the West Indian cricket team would be fair. You see, it isn’t that difficult to express the notion of difference without clumping humanity into divisions based on perceived divisions of black and white.

    I think discussions on culture and heritage are important and interesting but the colour of a person’s skin is irrelevant within these frameworks. Especially in a multicultural global society.

    You seem most taken aback about the terms ignorant and moronic and I make no apology for their deliberate use. They were inserted to prod those that have fallen into laziness in their writing.

    They are actually written from a forgiving point of view as I’d never imagine a writer to use such dangerous inaccuracies willingly. I’ve given all the perpetrators the benefit of the doubt.

    Labels like black and white deserve to be on the loony fringe used by losers like racially motivated supremacist groups.

    Richard Dawkins is a brilliant geneticist who also writes very entertaining books and has made scores of stunningly brave and cognizant documentaries about humanity.

    He is obnoxious, misunderstood and elitist but he is also polite, honest and fair (complexion and character) and most willing to change his mind if the evidence contradicts his view. Not too dissimilar than I in that sense.

  12. I think the point Nesta is making is the argument surrounding Nash should have been about his cricketing credentials and there it should end. His appearance or skin color is besides the point and focussing on that is stupid at best and racial at worst. Missing the forest for the trees and all that.

    The nature of the human mind is to classify all that it experiences. That is how we understand. We classify matter as solid, liquid or gas, We classify animals. We classify experiences as pleasurable or painful. We also classify fellow humans as black, white, brown and so on. That is just how our brain works.

    Unfortunately it does not end there and we make generalizations and decisions based on this classification. If I am not being presumptuous, that is what Nesta is lamenting and rightly so.

    Eg. True story. A while ago, my flight was cancelled and the earliest avaiable flight was the next day. There was only one woman, a blonde, at the counter and she was doing her best to accomodate all of us. A guy in the line could not accept it and took it out on the poor lady. He said something like “Just my luck I missed my flight and now I am stuck with a stupid blonde”. To which she replied, “Since I am so stupid, I cannot think of anything to help you, NEXT”

  13. Thank you Dement. Your support is appreciated.

    One thing I am mediocre at is storytelling and your analogy is wonderful.

    And it does pique my curiosity. Was she a natural dumb blonde or the bottled variety?

  14. I commented because i disagreed with you, I’m not a racist, or a bigot. I am someone who loves the differences we all have, and I celebrate them. Because Race can be used as a stereotype, or as racism, but it can also be used to show that everyone is gloriously different. My girlfriend is an English Sri Lankan who is proud to call herself a brown woman.

    Look at the joy that Barrack O’Bama’s victory has brought out, a man who has referred to himself, and is referred to by others, as the first black president of America. If he can be referred to as a black president, and has white blood, and is proud to be called a black man, who are we to say that race can’t be talked about.

    “Seeing that you have voluntarily, may I ask just what race would Nash be? ” Nash is what ever race he decides he is. And who are you, I, or anyone to say otherwise.

    “Could you describe for me what qualities other than albinism a man needs to earn the title white? And while your at it, black too. And how do you label the vast majority who inhabit the vast spectrum in between?” Well I’m of the opinion if a man wants to call him self white, pink, beige, brown, or black he can, and so can women. When Nash was called white by other cricketers, he said he thought it was a good sledge.

    “Arbitrarily chopping humanity into pieces serves to only diminish our collective potential and encourage division.” Humanity is divisions, and so it should be, who wants to live in a world where everyone has the same values and traits.

    “As an exercise, why not dispense with colour coding humanity for a while and see if you can invent other methods of description. It’s not difficult, completely painless and it will improve your craft as well.” I refer to people by all of their differences, as you would know. I refer to Darren Sammy’s perfectly shaped head, to hayden and klingers religions, for Darren Pattinson it’s his eyelids, with Andrew McDonald it’s his red hair, and with Nash i use a variety, his boringness as a batsman, his queenslandness, his pastieness, and once i bagged his haircut.

    Isn’t calling someone “fair” colour coding? You are skill referring to his skin colour, just with a different word. You are still judging him on skin, you are just not using the standard term.

    I think it’s great the Windies have a player who doesn’t fit the standard image of a west Indian cricketer, either african or indian looking. Same as i loved it when Andrew Symonds and Ryan Campbell played for Australia, when Devon Malcom, Chris Lewis or Nasser Hussain played for England, and anytime a player tests peoples preconceived thoughts on race.

    We are all different, so lets rejoice in it, not pretend it doesn’t exist.

  15. How can you tell?

  16. Above question was meant for Nesta

    “Was she a natural dumb blonde or the bottled variety?”

  17. It is important we use different words JRod and splitting hairs or a rambling anecdotal argument won’t alter that fact.

    Labels like black and white deserve to be on the loony fringe used by losers like racially motivated supremacist groups.

    As I’ve stated several times the terms black and white are poor descriptors which serve only to embed long held generational prejudice.

    By using those terms you add not to the joy of our difference but add fuel to the fires of indifference.

    I understand that it is unintended and perhaps one day, in the not too distant future I hope, you’ll see the distinction.

  18. If the hair is uniform in colour almost certainly fake. Not that it matters.

    Hope that helps and I should add that it is never something you discuss with a lady!

  19. Here’s an idea, why not look at the idea of racial superiority as a kind of idealistic power play. People who wish to define themselves solely by skin colour are probably talking out of their backside but those who deny genetic differences between races are also probably talking out of their collectives.

    What becomes interesting is when people start accussing others of slights and racism. Isn’t that just an attempt to assert moral superiority of one over another? Isn’t that just a frantic grasp at attaining pesudo-intellectual superiority?

    I don’t know (am I getting the pretentious paragraphing right?) all I do know is the simplification of ideas due to mental masturbation has never boded well for us, the multi coloured parchment of humanity.

  20. Nesta, I appreciate that your comments stem from your genuine desire to steer clear of terms that could be deemed racist, but it seems to me that your argument can be summed up as follows:

    WE can’t use the terms black and white because YOU consider them to be poor descriptors and YOU consider that they deserve to belong to the loony fringe and used by racially motivated losers and YOU consider them to embed long held generational prejudice.

    (the capitals aren’t meant to be shouting; I’m using them for emphasis).

    Use of language is much too complicated and context-dependent for one writer to say what words others should or shouldn’t use. Although I accept that you may not know this as you’re from a different background to me, the word “fair” is a particularly difficult word for those of us with sub-continental heritage who have grown up with the prejudice (perpetrated by those of the same race as us) that fairer skin is more attractive and that being described as fair is a compliment.

    I’m not saying that your choice of word is wrong (although it seems to me to reduce people down to skin shade evey bit as much as the words black or white) but I am simply demonstrating that a different word is not necessarily a better word.
    I couldn’t actually care less whether someone described me as black, mixed, Asian, brown, whatever, as the use of the word in itself makes little difference. The sentiment behind the word, and the context of it, makes all the difference.

  21. Nesta, the word “fair” was used by Hitler to describe the Aryans.

    So to say it is a better description sort of goes against your argument that hate groups use the words white/black.

  22. Godwin’s Law

  23. Godwin’s law, that is it, I was looking for that, I knew it was someone’s law, good catch TT.

  24. From the NZ perspecitve…

    Much has been made of the fact that Taylor is part-Samoan. First Samoan to score a test century in Manchester, first to play at Lords.

    Many reasons for this. Media is bored looking for an angle, not many Samoans play cricket (actualy Sua was the first to play test cricket but he was crap ) whereas they are a huge part of the All Blacks now.

    But you could argue the fact his father is Scottish is the bigger story. Although I suppose that’s another racial stereotype.

    Jrod, Nash isn’t the first import for a while to play test cricket for a while. KP, Prior, Elliot etc.

  25. well to be be fair, maybe he’s an elf.

  26. LB, first windian one.

  27. Jrod, wouldn’t CLR James have sommething to say about that?

  28. if he wasn’t dead

  29. Wow.. I have never seen Jrod so passionately argue about something..

    I think Miriam hit the nail on the head – its not the words u use, its the context u use them in. Thats all that matters…

    If Nash himself calls him the “first white man to play for the Windies in decades”, who are we to argue?

  30. I think avoiding the terms “black” and “white” can only be a good thing, as they are essentially unspecific and intentionally divisive. Their context is probably grounded in an ugly period of human history (okay many periods of history have been ugly) and evokes attitudes that are even uglier. I cringe when I hear the terms used in reference to a person’s heritage. Its time to move on.

    Anyway Nash’s ancestry is neither black nor white so referring to him as the only “white” player in the side is erroneous. In any case the most interesting point concerning his selection is the fact that he played in Australia for so long.

    Jrod is correct in saying that theres nothing wrong with telling it like it is but I don’t think this invalidates the original point.

  31. I’ve read everyone’s point of view and while choosing to ignore the desperate personal attacks and the use of persnickety semantics, I am yet to be convinced that the basic premise of the article is anything but accurate.

    The human species contains a gradient of shading and unless you happen to be a person who inherits a hypopigmentary congenital disorder, all of us are different shades of brown. This is an undeniable scientific reality and one we can all see by just opening our eyelids.

    The denyers, if they are sincere about peace, would serve themselves and humanity well, to choose what they express carefully and desist in perpetuating the myth of separation based on the genetic expression of melanin.

  32. the words “scientific reality”, I do not think they mean what you think they mean. However, if the crux of your argument is that we should all be nice to eachother regardless of skin colour, well, I’m down with that.

    I am interested in who “the denyers” are though. Do they have a newsletter? in this day and age I’m sure they have blog.

  33. I am more on JRod’s side than Nesta’s here, though I roughly see where Nesta’s coming from.

    There ARE clear differences between races (or whatever you want to call them) though. eg, a stupendous majority of the fastest ever 100m sprint times are by men with West African ancestry, and this is surely not a coincidence. The top distance runners are disproportionately East African.

    Those are distinct groups, both of whom have dark skin. So it would be incorrect to lump them all together as “blacks”. Nevertheless, Craig Mottram is easily picked out in a 5000m final in amongst the Kenyans and Ethiopians, and when we notice this we’re surely not being racist.

    And the same with Brendan Nash.

  34. Thanks for popping in Dave.

    I think a more benign and accurate description for every day use would be ethnic groups not only for your runners from the opposite ends of Africa but every other once isolated group on the planet. However, this is not a euphemism for race for that term is tarnished, imprecise and emotive.

    Biologists refer to specific groups, be they starfish, eucalypts or people, as populations and it is a little publicised fact that there is a broader diversity in genetic variation within distinct populations of a species than there is between.

    Hence Africa, as the cradle of humanity, has the most genetically diverse ethnic groups on Earth. Clearly they are not all the same but neither are you or I.

    Knowledge of this in itself should render the idea of race redundant. It is a social construct from another age kept breathing, knowingly by some and unintentionally by others, for reasons that are based in fear and superficiality.

    Considering you emphasised with capitals that there is indeed more than a single race, perhaps as a man of reason you could enlighten me with a definition and a light explanation of the criteria you use to define the boundaries between these groups?

    I ask respectfully, for without a specifically defined criteria for classification it is difficult to assess your hypothesis.

    And it is not the noticing of difference that is the bother. It is the superficial and simple terms used to highlight them.

  35. This is the first time I am reading an objection to anyone being referred to as “white”.

    I wonder why.
    Is it because Brendan Nash is of

    same parental mix as Brendan Nash; a father of indigenous European stock and a mother of African ancestry?

    and do not fall within the definition of being a (pure) white?

    I also wonder why, this author has now raised this issue? And has he raised his objections in the past to every “white” individual being referred to as white?

    If the objection is to an individual of mixed race being called “white” – then this article is deeply deeply racist.

    BTW, Nesta,
    you refused to exchange bloglinks with my site because my blogsite has a black background, remember?

    I must say, your perceptions of black and white is very strange.

  36. Nesta, sorry, I must be being totally dense here, but what is your point?

  37. Well I don’t think you can make clear-cut boundaries between races, since there’s always going to be some breeding across the groups (this is especially true with the West African “diaspora”, to continue my previous examples, which was spread across a number of countries during the slave trade). But in a practical sense it’s pretty easy to tell the difference most of the time. I don’t know if Usain Bolt is 95% or 99.9% “West African”, but he has much more recent (ie, not going back thousands of years) West African ancestry than I have, just like all the other top sprinters.

  38. The point of the article is that judging any man by the colour of his skin leads to unnecessary division among people.

    Also clear cut descriptors like black and white (and as I have learned fair too) exacerbate this situation as the words are slippery, ambiguous, imprecise and within the context have a regrettable history.

    This can be seen clearly in the latest and quite extraordinary personal attack by Chinaman where he demonstrates that sad fact by somehow equating his hard to read website with ridiculous and invented notions of racial purity.

    My questions to David were sincere for I have the utmost respect for his scientific integrity and he seemed sure that there was more than one race of people.

    Hence the request for a definition.

    My education and investigations from a biological perspective have led me, and many finer minds than mine, to the conclusion that there is only one, collectively known as humans.

  39. I had been trying to keep out of this, as these kinds of on-line debates rarely create more light than heat, but I’ll throw my two pence worth in anyway.

    Nesta, you seem to be calling for ‘Black’ & ‘White’ to be marginalised within the English language in the same way as words previously deemed to be offensively divisive, such as, for example, ‘darkie’. Your reasoning being that they are equally divisive, both currently and historically, whilst also being such broad-brush descriptors, for something with the variety of skin pigmentation, as too make them almost meaningless. If that’s not your stance, I’m sure you’ll correct me.

    I’d agree that ‘Black’ and ‘White’ lack subtlety, but when humans attempt to describe each other we look for short cuts; we’re lazy. Ask someone to pick out a friend in a crowd and they’ll use broad-brush descriptors. “He’s the fat guy in the Batman T-shirt”. Not very subtle, a bit insensitive perhaps, but assuming we’re not at a comic book convention, likely to identify them pretty accurately. Similarly if asked to pick Brendan Nash out from a West Indies team photo, most people will say “The white guy”. Doing so doesn’t automatically make them a grand wizard in the KKK. ‘Black’ & ‘White’ can be used in a divisive way, but they can also be used in a fairly innocent, if lazy, way too.

    We’ll always need a way to describe skin colour, it’s one of the major differences in human appearance. To avoid it would just create an elephant in the room. But if you want to eliminate ‘black’ and ‘white’ you need to have ready replacements. What are they?

  40. Len, all your assumptions are essentially correct and your observations and question are very astute.

    I’ll readily admit that I don’t have all the answers and also that I am not so naive that I do not recognise that many use the terms benignly.

    I remember a British TV sitcom from when I was very very young, Love Thy Neighbour, may have been its title and the lead actors would regularly call each other sambo and honky.

    Over time as they discovered that they had more in common than they realised these labels became less frequent and even terms of endearment but the writers were highlighting something deeper often emphasised by conversations between their wives over a cup of tea in the kitchen.

    If the same program was made today and blacky and whitey were used instead it wouldn’t get aired. Perhaps, and I say this with no clarity or thought, they should be for I think programs like that broadened awareness and softened attitudes in the UK.

    My major beef are the terms use by media. The sordid history of Australia, a country where the indigenous population were classified as fauna only a half century ago perhaps makes us keener than most in regards to descriptions of colour.

    For example, I’ve never read or heard Andrew Symonds described as black in mainstream Australian or Kiwi media. Nor in conversation.

    His lineage has been emphasised and idiot, dickhead, drunk and brilliant have been used but never have I seen a reference to his skin. It’s not because of the elephant it’s because it is irrelevant. If he was in a team photo I’d almost certainly respond instinctively with the big bloke with the dreads.

    Richard Chee-Quee, a handy New South Welshman batsman of Chinese extraction was also never described as yellow, having a flat face or different eyes either. These are also descriptions that are beyond the pale that some may equate as honest and being on par with height and shoe size.

    If I was to describe Brendan Nash in a team photo I’d likely say the bloke from Queensland not because I’m deleting something consciously but because I’ve been educated to see people not colour. I’d probably notice a big nose or crooked cap before my mind focused on his tan or lack of, especially if he was fully dressed.

    Published writers have a responsibility to be careful in their language for the readers understand the words through their own filters and it is better for us all not to give the nasty any extra ammunition or contentment in their myopic world view.

    As economies shrink people’s fears will rise to the surface and so writers, even cricket ones, should do their bit to not exacerbate them.

    I understand my methods are like a sledgehammer to the face but I’ve learned that for the truth to be effective it needs to hit a nerve or as the Chinese say, pierce like an arrow.

    In 2009, there are many similarities to the political and social machinations of around a century ago and there are already some leaders promising salvation by emphasising our differences.

    I have no problem in stating that I’ll challenge those ideas wherever and whenever I find them for not only are they just plain stupid, in today’s economic and political environment they are downright dangerous too.

    To finish, I don’t have any advice about what terms people should use but just like sambo and honky, white and black in terms of people should be seriously scrutinised especially in all forms of published media.

  41. For what its worth Nesta, I think you’ve brought up a subject that you feel passionately about and it has provoked, for the most part, positive discussion, which is always a good thing. I find myself agreeing to almost all of your points, which are cogently put across and hard to argue with.

    I don’t want to talk about some of the other comments on this post, but it is clear that right now few people would agree to your underlying theme, a theme I happen to subscribe to. But almost everyone is willing to accept that we must work towards harmony on our differences, still a good thing.

    These are viewpoints also expressed by some of the most famous (including a recently disgraced) genealogists in the field and there is a feeling that beneath the surface many have come to accept that there are inherent racial differences despite everything they have learned.

    This is similar to what I was trying to say before, that in general people are not ready to accept theories that would challenge a lifetime’s experiences and perceptions, and so the ultimate objective may take a while to get to. While subjugating people might be quicker it can also have the direct opposite effect of the intention. It might be better to let topics as sensitive as this one to evolve and allow people to arrive by consensus at what they deem is appropriate for their time and eventually we’ll get there. So you’re either ahead of your time or a few decades old :) with this point of view, depending on which way you want to look at that.

    “In 2009, there are many similarities to the political and social machinations….. are downright dangerous too. “

    Too true and I fear as people begin to realize that the US does not and cannot have all the answers and that we are stepping into a very new world, that we are going to see a few rash or maybe stupid moves that are based not only on perceived compulsion but also by the strengthening of these emphasized differences. How quickly people forget all those promises to never allow something to happen again.

    To that degree I have to agree with “writers, even cricket ones, should do their bit to not exacerbate them.”. As someone who enjoys the occasional Onion article, I can see (and maybe attempt to borrow) from what I consider harmless humor involving the deliberate usage of the terms black and white, a possible different approach to tackling this issue.

    Now I’m not entirely certain how important it is to these authors to highlight this PoV, but I do know that a lot of imitators often do not share that motivation and the ugly headlines such as “Asian Guy Lost” on some forums when a reputed Cnet author died while trying to find help for his family are an ugly reminder of how these articles may exacerbate the situation. This is something I would not have thought of if I had not read this post and the comments.

    So to conclude, I cannot guarantee that I will challenge people who choose to use the terms “white” and “black” for as poor descriptors as they happen to be, I don’t know that at this time they definitely cause more damage than good by provoking conversation, or at least thought. Or that they are any worse than any other descriptors out there and that inhibiting their use might in some weird way defeat the purpose by bring about uncomfortable feelings that give rise to terms like “reverse racism”. These to me prove that unless people do not fully understand why a line of approach is absolutely necessary, imposing on them to take that line can often do more harm than good.

    I also cannot guarantee that I will personally not use these terms in any of my works in the future. But I can say I will consciously think twice as to whether there is significant benefit to be arrived at by doing so, whether provocative or other, or whether the intended use will be lost on many of my readers and entice further division.

    It has to some degree woken me up to what my own blog has evolved to… From a blog that hoped to analyze and invite discussion on improvements to the game I have unfortunately fallen prey to bashing easy targets, not necessarily a bad thing :) but I wonder if I have honestly contributed to any healing and I think the answer is a comprehensive NO. In the worst case, I may have contributed to further divisiveness. So, although not your intended purpose, I thank you for both of these wake up calls.


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