of Madame George and roses,
it’s the home of police who kill
black boys on mopeds” -Sinead O’Connor, from Black Boys on Mopeds.
Angry, naive lyrics from a young, angry, possibly naive, pop singer. Surely. Nothing more. But also a comment on the volatile racial viper pit that was London in the 1980s. The Brixton Riots. Colin Roach. Nicholas Bramble. This article from The Independent dated 21 November 1993 is a proper summation of what life was like for the black English in London at the time. It was a difficult time, a time when England’s racial problems took hold and threatened the civility of an entire nation.
And those problems have not gone anywhere. It was just seven years ago that the police gunned down Jean Charles de Menezes in the wake of the 0f the 07 July bombings in London. And earlier this week, the captain of England’s football team was acquitted of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, despite reams of evidence to the contrary.
There is not an Englander alive that won’t tell you that England doesn’t have a race problem. A problem that saw its genesis on the backstreets of Stoke Newington and one that continues today.
You can even see it in the faces of the country’s international cricket team.
The England squad that is to face South Africa in the first test of a hugely anticipated series is, with the exception of Ravi Bopara, as white as driven snow.
Meanwhile, South Africa’s squad features seven non-white athletes: Hashim Amla, Jean-Paul Duminy, Alviro Petersen, Robin Petersen, Vernon Philander, Thami Tsolekile, and Lonwabo Tsotsobe.
Now, I realize I am wading in dangerous waters here, and I realize that when it comes to racial problems, South Africa’s are incomparable to England’s, it’s not even apples to oranges, it’s apples to hand grenades, but I still think it is worth noting that England’s squad is noticeably whiter than that of South Africa’s: the country that stripped its dark skinned populace of citizenship not 42 years ago.
Who cares? That might be your response. And what does it matter what color cricketers are anyway?
Because I think a strong African English and Caribbean English interest in cricket is necessary for not just the continued growth of the sport, but for the continued bridging of the racial divide discussed above. I feel the same about Major League Baseball and African Americans: I think it is a shame that more African American kids do not want to play baseball; I think it is bad for baseball, and bad for America.
Because: there should not be white sports and black sports. Right now: cricket is a white sport, and it shouldn’t be that way. In America: baseball is for whites and hispanics; hockey is for whites; basketball is for African Americans, as is gridiron football (except for the quarterback, of course, and the kicker.)
The racial divide in sport among the two shining lights of Western style democracy is a chasm deep, wide, and bridge-less.
Yes, of course, football has a huge race problem, in England, and throughout the world. I get that. I am not saying cricket is the only devil here. I am just saying that it is a shame that while we demand racial equality in the workplace and in the schools, we allow it to fester between the lines of our favorite Saturday pastimes.
And so what do we do? How do we kick racism out of football? How do we get more Afro-Caribbeans interested in cricket?
In researching, and reading, I came across this article that I think is worth your time. There is also the Chance to Shine project, and many other worthwhile attempts to keep the sport healthy, vibrant, and diverse.
But otherwise, I don’t have any answers. I just think it is a shame. And really something that the ECB should actively be talking about. And it looks like they are. Good on them.
If any of the above offends, please take a moment and remember that it was not meant to do so. It has been just something I have been thinking about the last couple of days. Please do let me know your thoughts in the comments.
Here is a hauntingly beautiful version of the song quoted above:
All of the above, I am excited as can be for the series. See everyone on Twitter.