Verbal racism is not very nice. But destroying a man’s life for shouting something mean is disgusting.
Raheem Sterling is a football player in the English Premier League, whose current fealty is to the Manchester City club. He’s a striker and his job is to score goals. He was born on the island of Jamaica, is ethnically African, and currently resides in England.
He has been recently showered with awards: The Professional Football Association (PFA) Young Player of the Year, the Football Writers Association (FWA) award and the Integrity and Impact (II) Award, amongst others. Sounds like he’s a pretty good footballer — perhaps. But is he a pretty good human being?
The British press just can’t get enough of Sterling, but it’s often less about a good game that he’s had; it’s usually about him complaining that someone in the crowd shouted at him. Two awards particularly, the FWA and the II awards, drew particular attention to Sterling’s Tourette’s-like syndrome of seeing and hearing things from football supporters at his games.
We’re trying, not just me, to make a change that in 10 years’ time younger players won’t have to think about a match and dare to be abused because the fans at that stadium will know what the consequences will be. That’s the goal for me and every other player I’ve spoken to, people at the club, and we’re trying to get something in place so people have to think twice before they say something like that. [Raheem Sterling/ The Guardian]
Here’s the simple truth of the trope that is Raheem Sterling: as he is black, and residentially English, he is being used as a massive foil in order to beat the native English with the racism stick. A simple internet search will find numerous accounts of him complaining about a shout from the crowd that he thought was ‘racially abusive‘. Because of this, Sterling is a hero to the British press. For every incessant discussion of racism by the media, Sterling is the perfect foil for them to browbeat the English into submission.
And it never ends. But let’s be clear what we are talking about. Sterling will hear something (or says he did) from the crowd that he thinks is racist; it might be ‘nigger‘, it might be ‘monkey‘, it might just be — nothing. What’s important is that one grown, adult man, shouted at another, grown, adult man; one of them is rich, one is not; one of them is ethnically African, the other is ethnically English; one of them is an athlete, one is not; one is famous, one is not; one has infinite media access, the other does not. Needless to say, this is not the Nash Equilibrium of racial game theory (there is no win-win here); it is not the male adult who is ethnically African, rich, athletic and famous that loses — the man with all of the power — it is, of course, the other guy that gets the full scourge of the British press. The native.
Is one grown man shouting ‘nigger‘ at another grown man offensive? Yes, sometimes and no. It all depends on many factors. But is it a crime? No! Except — wait a minute! Hold the British presses! The under-reported concept for the poor, benighted English is that one grown man shouting at another grown man (that is, depending on how the skin-tone equations resolve themselves) is a crime. I’ll repeat that so it sinks in — one grown man shouting (offensively, possibly) at another grown man is a criminal offense. The police, and a knock on the front door, will be involved.
Raheem Sterling has all of the privilege and advantage in any shouting match. He is the Goliath in any one-on-one dispute. If he hears something offensive, does he just shrug his shoulders and move on? Does he just pretend that the shout didn’t happen? Does he use all of his privilege and advantage to be the — more athletic, richer, more famous, more media-favored — ‘bigger’ man?
Hell no! The 2019 ‘Man Of Integrity‘? Pshaw!
He’s going to invoke (and does) all of his resources. All of his privilege and advantage. He’s going to cry and complain like a 10-year old girl that just lost her favorite Noyah lip balm. He’s going to make sure that he is labeled as the ‘victim‘, and the other guy as the ‘oppressor‘. He’s going to make sure that the man who made that (possibly) offensive shout will see the full force of not only the British police, court and judiciary. Not only that, but he’s going to make sure the frothing-mouth media coverage will ensure that the man who (possibly) shouted something mean at him loses his job, gets threatened with death, has to move from his home, and is removed from all social media, besides being banned from all football games for the rest of his life.
Down with The Oppressor™! (And — oh yeah — he is going down…)
After a game where a shout was heard, Raheem, the African-heritage guy, the poor victim of ‘racial abuse‘, the victim, will go home to his luxury flat, drive his luxury car, eat at a luxury restaurant, and basically act as if nothing ever happened. In fact, he might just lean back on his luxury leather couch in the evening and just laugh his ass off. For other poor guy — well, he’s got life-altering changes, all for the worse, ahead of him. Life. Altering.
However, this perverse judicial inequity is no longer about justice, is it? It’s about punishment. It’s about revenge. It’s about controlling speech and thought. It’s about the re-ordering of society, where the native English are at every disadvantage, from flippant hate incidents, to YouTube bans, to a complete social death. This applies not to only to the guy who (possibly) shouted something mean — it will apply to all native English that shout something mean in the heat and emotion of the moment at a professional athlete in any venue.
Sterling, and people like him, know this. They know that disproportionate punishments that will be meted out when they could have just ignored, or downplayed, the taunt. But they don’t. And they won’t. And they’ll continue to win awards and be feted by the media. And then they’ll lean back on their luxury leather couches, have another glass of Dom Perignon, and laugh, and laugh, and laugh…