The Andrew Symonds Dismissal

I haven’t read everything about what happened in the run-up to Andrew Symonds’ dismissal, but it seems a bit strange. The man had a few drinks, even though he apparently promised not to. On the other hand, where were his teammates? Did they all go to this rugby tournament, sit at a bench and order drinks, and then watch uneasily as Symonds reached for one after the other as well? Or did Symonds violate the team’s no-alcohol policy and just order one out loud? 

Poor man. When the first Harbhajan-Symonds broke out, I tried to sketch a more complicated point of view. I argued a) that Singh did in fact call Symonds a monkey, which I thought reprehensible and deserved as much punishment as Symonds should have received for provoking the dispute, but also that b) Singh did not deserve the “racist” tag as a result.

To understand why,  refer to the current debate in the U.S. over Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. Apparently, at one point, the judge said she thought a “wise Latina” would arrive at a better decision than a white man. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich and other conservatives used the quote as evidence that Sotomayor was “racist,” even though where Sotomayor comes from — a minority in an all-white country — precluded her from exercising the power and systematic predujice tha “racism” implies.

So, words mean different things when spoken by different people. I rankled when Australian observers, happy for once to have the spotlight off their own rowdy, notorious stadium crowds, pointed to Indian “monkey” displays as if to say, “See! You’re racists too!” Well, not exactly: there’s white racism, a particularly potent strain that inflicted serious damage around the world, and then there’s brown silliness. (And this doesn’t mean South Asians aren’t prone to discrimination either, of course. Caste-ism is a serious issue in the ol’ country.) 

Of course, for Symonds, the sneer only meant one thing, and he probably had to hear it countless times growing up in Australia (and not in the way Indians heard it from their parents and friends, but from occasionally nasty white people). Fair enough. This is why I find “monkey” comments now, particurlarly ones meant to vilify and joke, completely unhelpful. Take 12th Man’s comment on Amy S.’s blog post about Symonds:

“I understand no matter how much you teach a monkey to socialise with human beings, it will return to the trees. N.B. I am no racist.”

I generally like 12th Man’s stuff, but he really doesn’t need to write this kind of shit. It’s particularly distressing because that sort of line sounds like pitch-perfect 19th-century British colonialist talking about the restless natives. It’s not just the “monkey” tag, but the rest of the “civilizing” discourse, i.e. it’s the white man’s burden to teach the brown, inferior races how to behave properly and “mature.” Seriously out of line, 12th Man.

UPDATE: A heartfelt apology from 12th Man below. Much appreciated.

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7 thoughts on “The Andrew Symonds Dismissal

  1. Krishna says:

    The “I am no racist” part is key. He knows it is offensive, but he goes and writes it anyway. But amazingly, he is Indian too: “12th Man is an Indian hailing from an orthodox middle-economic class family in Chennai. He has somehow managed to get a much coveted Engineering degree from a top Indian grad school.” (http://highyengar.wordpress.com/about-us/)

    I am not so sure about the “brown silliness” part. The truth is that Indians are just as bit racist towards blacks as whites are, the only difference being that they did not have enough power to institutionalize discrimination.

    The other day, I was talking to an Indian friend of my friend about the IPL and suddenly he started saying stuff like, “They (SA blacks) are animals”. I was disgusted and ready to throw up.

    It is very simple. You cannot expect a caste culture that segregated different sections of Indian society based solely on birth (and no other distinguishing characteristics) to have enlightened attitudes towards other oppressed classes.

    Obviously, much of the new generation is different. But it will take a few decades for this to die out.

  2. Q says:

    I do see why ur saying what ur saying ducking beamers.. and great response and reasoning Krishna, but has 12th Man seen this? Maybe he should be given a chance to argue his case.. just maybe?

    • duckingbeamers says:

      I don’t know if 12th Man has seen it — I linked to his blog and to his comment, so I’m sure he’ll get an alert or something, Q. Besides, I’m not obligated to do anything — he made an argument, I responded. Seems pretty fair.

  3. Q says:

    Ofcourse your not obligated to do anything. And yes it does seem fair to me too, but the reason I asked is that it could be that 12th Man was joking? Not the best things to joke about but I would like to know why he said what he did.

  4. 12th Man says:

    I wasn’t serious at all. I am brown and did not mean to call him monkey in a derogatory sense. I don’t want to give a Harbhajan-type excuse to defend my non-chalant remark either.

    I’m sorry if I hurt anyone in that process. I’d request Amy to pull that comment off her blog.

  5. 12th Man says:

    If possible, I request you to remove the reference too.

  6. alwaysindian says:

    Its a real shocker for Australian cricket.. symmos had an aura unparalleled by any other player… but this will be advantageous for India.. But i agree… we have lost one of the greatest natural cricket talents..

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