The great debate

Readers' feedback to the issue of racism in Australian crowds

Much has been written about the problems of South African and Sri Lankan players being racially abused during the summer. Today's article by Peter English (Kicking out racism) has attracted considerable feedback and we print a selection below. Cricinfo does not condone any of the comments contained, but we thought it important to show the variety of reactions.
I find it interesting that there are enquiries into rascism in cricket in Australia where this is mostly from spectators over whom the cricket authorities have little control whilst institutional rascism is practiced flagrantly by Zimbabwe against both its players and its minority officials and the ICC condones it. It is clear that rascism in the eyes of the world can only be practiced by white people against other coloured people whilst the reverse is called something else and is not only acceptable it is encouraged. PH Holloway
I agree that there is a problem in Australian crowds and that this problem needs to be removed. Indeed, bravo to the ICC for attempting to something constructive for the good of the game and not money, for once. However, it must be said that every country is guilty of racism one way or another. There are always a few in every crowd that shout offensive and detrimental phrases at the players. If the ICC really want to act maybe it should be a global effort to cut out racism, not the sort of half measure in rooting out racism we saw from the ICC in Zimbabwe last year. Simon Fleming
I agree that there is a problem in Australian crowds and that this problem needs to be removed. Indeed, bravo to the ICC for attempting to do something constructive for the good of the game and not money, for once. However, it must be said that every country is guilty of racism one way or another. There are always a few in every crowd that shout offensive and detrimental phrases at the players. If the ICC really want to act maybe it should be a global effort to cut out racism, not the sort of half measure in rooting out racism we saw from the ICC in Zimbabwe last year. Simon Fleming
On the 13th of January i was at Telstra Stadium for the Sri Lanka-Australia match when an Aussie lady shouted at a group of Sri Lankan supporters as black ****. The Sri Lankan supporters replied back because they couldnt just keep quiet. Then she got angry and slapped one of the Sri Lankan boys and it was going to turn into an ugly incident but fortunately she was ejected from the ground. Chaminda
I am so tired of Howard government haters like Peter English saying we have a racism problem in this country. Nothing could be further from the truth. Look at how many people of ethnic origin hold political office in this country for a start - so much for racial discrimination bubbling to the surface in the privacy of a voting booth! I find his Australia bashing to be offensive and, frankly, politically motivated. As for immaturity, such a charge only requires a three word reply: pot, kettle, black. Raymond
Congratulations on a fantastic article which accurately captures the sad state of denial that Australia has when it comes to confronting anything unpleasant about our own. Whether it's drugs in sport, sledging or racism, we tend to trivialise it when it reflects badly on us, but it's always a crime when perpetrated by others. The Chinese are drug cheats, but we just take headache tablets. Our sledging is good natured but Sarwan's retort to McGrath, concerning his wife, was totally unacceptable. When our sports stars make racist comments, it's nothing more than a bit of frustration, competitiveness or larrikinism. Until people begin to recognise that there is no excuse for such vile thoughts entering people's heads, regardless of the excuse, Australia will continue to be in a state of denial over the poor behaviour of its sporting populace. Whilst alcohol is a contributing factor, the fact that racist thoughts are aired when inhibitions are relaxed merely point to the fact that such thoughts lurk disturbingly close to the surface. I am a Sri Lankan-born Aussie who's been here since childhood and played cricket around the world - I love my country but I can't help but be embarassed by the many idiots who carry their prejudices in a bottle of beer and then hide behind some supposedly unique Australian traits. Fair dinkum Aussies are better than that - such thoughts never enter their heads in the first place. Michael Jeh
With regards to the current debate regarding racial abuse during cricket games, I believe it has been blown competely out of proportion and the problem has been exacerbated by the media attention. Prior to reading newspaper articles I had never heard of the word "kaffir", let alone it's meaning. I know that with the increased publicity and the fact it is known to upset the opposition, crowds will continue to use it. Matt
It's interesting to see how behaviour that is clearly unacceptable everywhere else in our society somehow becomes "mandatory" when a cricket match is on. It's seen as the thing to do at the cricket to sit on the hill, get blind drunk and act like a moron. I can't stand going to the cricket now, to be surrounded by drunk Australian males who think it's OK to racially abuse players and spectators, and to sexually harass female spectators like they are pieces of meat. People who behave in this manor at the cricket need to understand that it doesn't matter whether they "mean it" or not. The unfortunate people on the end of the insults are always hurt. And contrary to the denials of many Australians, these attitudes are symptomatic of an underlying racism in our culture and it needs to end now. Ben Habib
If Australian cricket fans are so racist why is Andrew Symonds one of the most popular players? Graeme
As an ex-South African living in rural NSW I am appalled at what has been happening at the cricket this summer. I await South Africa's tours eagerly and I love watching the Aussies play, but the race issue has left a bitter taste in my mouth, mainly because all the blame has been put on ex-South Africans. Many of us living here left BECAUSE of the racist regime that existed in South Africa and deplore the use of the word "kaffir". I never want my little boy or girl to hear that word and I take great offence to it. To blame ex-South Africans is a cop out, Australian society has a deep racial undertone in it but no one wants to admit it. I'm off to the final in Sydney and no matter who Australia plays I only hope that cricket is the winner! Brendon Briedenhann
I am Australian citizen of Indian origin and have lived here for over 30 years. I fully concur with the view that something drastic needs to be done to prevent racist taunts at sporting events becoming an epidemic. It is imperative that hefty fines and possible jail terms should be included to deter such behaviour in addition to ejecting the culprits from the arena. I am a cricket tragic and have watched the game in different countries, India, England, New Zealand and Australia, and am sorry to say that this kind of bad behaviour is not unique to Australia. Indeed, I had come across much worse name calling and relentless harassment in England despite a large West Indian and south Asian presence in the crowd. India is not immune, just that the perverse name calling is often in one of the many Indian languages which is unintelligible to the visiting team and so no offence is taken. The New Zealand behaviour is simply put down to the traditional trans-Tasman rivalry and our countries' mutual fondness for the sheep. Perhaps, the English-speaking nations pay a price for the popularity of their language. Rangan Srinivasan
People think racism in Australia is a new phenomenon; no it is not. Way back in 1988 when the Under-19 Youth World Cup was held Down Under (where Sanath Jayasuriya, Romesh Kaluwitharana and a certain Brian Lara showed a glimpse of their class) some of the Sri Lankan cricketers were almost manhandled by Aussie thugs who called them black a**holes, and monkeys. This was in Sydney when the boys went out sightseeing. During the last 20 years things have taken a turn for worse, both among spectators and in the middle. Upul Chandana
As an Australian who has been playing and attending cricket matches for nearly 30 years I am stunned by the picture that Peter English has painted of Australia as a seething pit of racism. It disappoints me that he has taken this line as it gives a false impression of my country, as he lets an extremely small minority, taint the significant majority. Furthermore, using politicised language such as "stolen generation", referring to the One Nation party that failed to gain traction in any state outside Queensland and the Tampa incident are cheap catch cries that he beleives are argument enders, but rather are all contentious issues that are not black and white. Are there racist people in Australia? Absolutely. Is it acceptable? No way. However, there is a difference between racism and abuse. I think you will find that the majority of people who used the word "kaffir" probably learnt it off Lethal Weapon 2 and have no idea about the historical and cultural baggage it carries. Nick Cummins
Racism is not something you are born with. Racism is absorbed into every individual via the society, peers, journalist, followers, role models and leaders. History has nothing to do with it. Once it's within you, it is very difficult to stop practicing racism since you kind of get addicted and branded to it. I am sure like most of them says, they feel good about it but they do not mean it. Racism is a tool that can achieve a lot in a competitive environment. It is a part of the intimidating process in military sense. In reality, you can intimidate somebody by assuming a superior position regardless of the facts. This is exactly what is going on in the Australian and some other teams today. When you see the attitude of the Australian players in the grounds with the other teams, you will realize that they have made taunting and ridiculing a major part of the game. This is a part of their act of playing and winning the game. The problem is the spectators absorb these behaviors and try to contribute to the process. The result is racial slurs. If you want to put a stop to racial slurs, put a stop to minds games like this inside the field.Ranil Abeysekera
Andrew Martis and BJ need to consider why the South African cricketers are so upset about racist abuse. These people seem to think that because South Africa has a history of racism, that it is an excuse for Australians to behave the same way. The South African players are very aware of our country's sad history, and make every effort to correct the wrongs of the past. Because of this awareness, it makes them even more sensitive to the mindlessness of those who think that making racist comments are clever or funny. Edgar Northey
This is ridiculous, we are a fun-loving nation. Just because sometimes we say descriptive stuff that sounds insulting, that doesn't mean that we mean it. It's our way of bagging the opposition - I mean go to a QLD v NSW match in rugby league or union and people yell out offensive stuff. It all means the same, it's just described different. When the South African team complained on TV, some (note the word 'some') people saw it as something that they know will upset them, and that's why they repeated it - not due to racism. Bryce
I am an Australian of Indian origin and every time I've been to the Gabba, I have been racially abused. I stopped going about two years ago. The last time I was with my nephew who was 10 years old, we sat next to four young white Australian men. Initially they were very nice and wanted to know which country I came from. About two hours and four glasses of beer later they were screaming all manner of obscenities at the Pakistanis and making life miserable for us. My nephew was curious to know what they were screaming about and I had to walk out of there, and have not been back since. Carlton Isaaks
I am an Australian born from Indian descent and have been subject to racial abuse many times when watching the cricket. It is symptomatic of a society that pretends to be tolerant but under the surface is not. I would like to congratulate you on a brilliant article. It is when people like you bring up this subject that it can be brought into a truer light. Sandeep Chandra
Peter English is right on and I fully agree with him that Australia has such ingrained and ugly racial prejudices that seems to be glossed over with patriotism. It is only one step further from loving your country so vehemently to hating others. Patriotism in Australia has become almost mandatory in this Howard age and sadly so has racism. It was sport, particularly cricket that held (or bore the brunt of) the international pressure that helped bring down the apartheid state in South Africa. Maybe it should help clean out the racists from this country now. Paul Gill
Letting a few bad apples ruin the entire harvest is truly missing the forest for the trees. There will always be some fans who will try to be disruptive for one reason or another. They need to be dealt with by security at the games not by boycotting the game and its followers. Dr Alan Molk (USA)
The jibes about "kaffirs" from the crowd, are most likely expatriot South Africans who still bear anger at their former homeland, as kaffir is not a general term used by Australians. If Majola feels his poor cricketers are too thin skinned to cope, they should take up knitting. Roger Harris
The idea of imposing fines on these unmentionables is a great way to let them know that this type of intolerance will not be acceptable. The fines imposed for this type of behaviour should be the same as the fines for pitch invasion, as both are detrimental to the game of cricket. Gavin McMiles
Throwing a person out of the grounds will not do if the country is serious about stopping the rot/curse of racism. Offenders need to be punished by jail sentences. For this to happen, there has to be a commitment by the country's leaders and legislators that they want to seriously address this issue. Until there is that kind of a commitment (like here in Canada), this will only get worse. Shame on you Australia. Chris (Canada)
I don't think the people calling South Africans "kaffir" mean it - they are just saying some words they heard. And didn't the South Africans use those words for 30 years or more previously. I would be happy enough if they boycott an Australian tour. They haven't been the most congenial guests or competitive adversaries. Andrew Martis
Just in relation to the racial taunts to South African players. WA has one of the highest population of native South Africans outside SA itself. I was at the game and heard the comments - but it was "Australian" South Africans that were making the comments and there was a general feel of uncomfortability in the Australian crowd. David
To me, most of the guys being taunted with "kaffir" comments appear to be Anglos who've spent some time at the beach. Go ahead and boycott, you goat - you need us MUCH more than we need you. And when it comes to racism ... well, there's a little something about stones and glasshouses. BJ
I have lived in Australia as a Sri Lankan migrant for the past 14 years. It comes as no surprise to me that this sort of disgusting behaviour is taking place around Australian cricket grounds. Australia has a racist underbelly and has, in my experience, always expressed this on the sporting field - particularly when tempers flare. No country can claim to be angelic, but Australia seems to have created an art form out of racial taunts and personal slurs. Shaun