It wasn’t even funny!
Monty Panesar – Image, http://www.telegraph.co.uk
Picture this: The Australian Cricket Board Chairman’s XI is playing against the visiting English team. The match is being played in Alice Springs. A spinner who has played for England 48 times in test matches, 26 times in One Day Internationals, and taken 188 wickets in these matches comes in to bowl his left arm spinners. The spinner is a 31 year old born in Luton in England. The ground announcer is David Nixon, a hitherto unknown individual.
David Nixon announces the spinner in a fake mocking Indian accent. Why? The spinner is Monty Panesar. Panesar’s parents are of Sikh religious faith and of Indian ethnic origin. Ironically the announcer is also the person who is required to remind spectators of the International Cricket Council’s Racism code which says in part: “anyone making “racially abusive comments and actions” will result in ejection from the ground”. Nixon then justifies his actions on Twitter that he is a fan of Panesar. Cricket Australia, on the other hand, does not tolerate the nonsense and stands down the announcer.
Really? I love Monty P – cult hero. He should bat 3. My style didn’t fit theirs. That’s all. RT@sjrohweder: ABC’s David Nixon stood down
I commend the actions of Cricket Australia. The scenario that played out herein reminded of two other incidents that I dealt with in recent times. The first of these was one that involved Nic Naitanui from the West Coast Eagles. What transpired on that occasion was that Tim Clarke then at WA Today Sports Department, contacted me at the then peak ethnic advocacy agency in this area to say that he had discovered a video that had been uploaded online that portrayed the footballer as a spear waving tribesman. After making the requisite enquiries I tracked the producers of the video to Tasmania where a trio of young school teachers and football enthusiasts admitted to having put together the offending video. Concurrently I had contacted the hierarchy of the West Coast Eagles who indicated that they had had a conversation with the footballer and he was offended by the portrayal in the video. Accordingly I spoke to the people who had uploaded the video and interestingly their response was also along the lines of that advanced by Nixon above and that they “were huge fans of Naitanui”. To their credit, the boys in Tasmania did not attempt to justify putting the video up and pulled it off the websites as soon as they could. They then issued public apologies to Naitanui. However, newspapers all around the world ran the story close to or at the front page as an example of the racism that exists in this country. Details of some of the news coverage can be found here:
The second incident that occurred that I was involved in related to the WA Parliament. As I recall it Margaret Quirk and Peter Watson on the Labor side of state politics chose to mock Michael Sutherland about his South African accent. Details of that incident are here:
I wrote to the local newspaper pointing out that the mimicking of other’s accents was racist. A number of agencies involved in the area of assessments of racial vilification and discrimination have examined this issue. The University of British Columbia is one of those that has examined the issue and this is their analysis that I have used in the past. They define racial harassment in these terms:
- Intimidating or derogatory gestures
- Physical violence or assault or threats of violence
- Negative or derogatory comments about a racial or ethnic group, their beliefs or religious practices
- Derogatory remarks, insults or slurs about a person’s skin colour or appearance
- Unwelcome remarks about a person’s cultural observances
- Racist jokes and offensive nicknaming or name-calling
- “Universalizing” language and experience which serves to homogenize individual experiences and erase differences between peoples and culture
- Mocking or imitating someone’s accent
- Racist graffiti
- Defacing notices or posters
- Negative stereotyping of particular ethnic groups
- Written threats of a racial nature
- Discriminatory work allocation to less desirable shifts, jobs or tasks
- Literature that promotes hatred towards a group or groups
I hasten to add that in the case of the state politicians my letter emphasised that I found it quite out of character for someone like Margaret Quirk to have done what is claimed herein. I had had the good fortune to work with her when she was the Minister for Multicultural Interests in the state government. At a later date she went to great lengths to indicate to me personally that she had been suitably chastened by my letter to the editor.
The latest incident that occurred over the weekend in Alice Springs is simply further proof that we have much to learn in so far as these issues are concerned. The mimicking of people’s accents and styles of speech is something that is unacceptable. It is far from funny and can be considered offensive by many. Somehow, I have never understood the justification that because the perpetrator is a “fan” of the victim the actions are somehow acceptable. As a fan I would consider it completely inappropriate to mock my idols. So why would it be acceptable for others to do so?
If there is a lesson that we can learn from the events of the weekend, it would simply be that we need to be mindful of our comments and actions when dealing with anyone. A second thought as to what the impact of our comments are going to be, would be a worthwhile thing.