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  • Racism at the Olympics

    by Sunny
    14th August, 2008 at 12:26 am    

    Two incidents, both despicable:

    In a photo that was taken in a pre-Olympics advertisement for a courier company that sponsors the Spanish federation, Pau Gasol and friends, winners of the 2006 FIBA World Championship and a strong medal favorite, posed with their index fingers pulling back the skin by the corner of their eyes.

    “It seemed to us to be something appropriate and that it would always be interpreted as an affectionate gesture,” José Calderon, the point guard who plays professionally in the N.B.A. for Toronto, wrote on an Internet site. “I want to express that we have great respect for the Orient and its people.”

    In a far worse demonstration of contempt, an Iranian swimmer called in sick to his swimming heat to avoid getting into the pool with an Israeli. That was a truly revolting development — a flagrant foul that went unpunished.

                  Post to del.icio.us

    Filed in: Race politics,Sports

    27 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs
    1. » Via Sunny, comes a New York Times report … Talk Islam

      [...] Sunny, comes a New York Times report of incidents at the Olympics involving the Spanish and Iranian [...]

    1. fugstar — on 14th August, 2008 at 1:19 am  

      how about the BBC Newsnight on tuesday night with Emily Mateless and some cultural poncetarts sneering at chinese fraudulency. (fireworks and some dubbing)

      i mean tthe gall of the BBC, pot kettle black.

      rascism might be the wrong word, but its just wrong. typical fading imperialism… imprinted in their every deluded comment.

    2. Amrit — on 14th August, 2008 at 2:03 am  

      The Iranian swimmer’s behaviour is absolutely ridiculous.

      Sadly, the incident regarding the Spanish athlete doesn’t surprise me. Three friends who travelled in Spain earlier this year said that they felt incredibly uneasy (they were Pakistani British, African American and half-Mexican American respectively). Then, when we were in Barcelona, we noticed the same thing they had: a huge majority of the prostitutes (or the ones operating more openly, at least) are black.

      We also came across a poster for a musical called ‘El Coco Negro’ in its 25th year, advertised by this frankly unbelievable Sambo-type figure right from the 19th century:


    3. Harry — on 14th August, 2008 at 5:31 am  

      While there are many things we can learn from Continental Europe, how to treat non-white people is not one of them.

      I have lived in Germany and spent much time in Italy and what we would consider as racism is actually quite normal there. Although, we ourselves have some way to go, and all this terrorism stuff has helped undo some of the progress we have made.

      I have no experience of life in Iran, but I would guess than since Persians themselves are treated pretty badly, then minorities there have a hard life.

    4. Letters From A Tory — on 14th August, 2008 at 9:26 am  

      The first story is not racist, just juvenile.

      The second story is racist but still worth ignoring.


    5. billericaydicky — on 14th August, 2008 at 10:00 am  

      It is rare that I agree with the majority of people posting here but on this one I do. I live in Spain a lot and have been going to visit and work since 1964 so I have seen a lot of changes over the years.

      What has to be remembered is that until the last fifteen years or so Spain was a net exporter of people to other partsof the EU and the world. During that time, because of its geographical position, it has become the conduit for much of the massive trade in sub Saharan Africans organized by criminal gangs and connived at by corrupt African governments. There are two good articles on http://www.searchlightmagazine.co on this subject, put Terry Fitzparick into archive to find them.

      There has always been a Moroccan presence in Spain, because of the historic connections and the proximity of the two countries, but generally Spaniards are not hostile to their immediate neighbours. When General Franco launched the attempted coup that turned into a civil way he did so from Morocco using Moroccan troops under Spanish officers.

      Although many Spanish will not admit it there is a lot of Magrebi blood flowing in their Catholic veins and the language has a distinctive Arabic flavour.

      Over the last fifteen year the demographic landscape of Spain has changed with the influx of literally hundreds of thousands of Africans in the way described in the articles. Originally they would be held for forty days and then if their nationality could not be determined they were given fifty Euros, a letter telling them to leave Spain and turned loose.

      The majority seem to have remained in the country setting up shanty towns on the edges of towns and cities that had never seen a black person except on film. Doing the most menial jobs they have driven wages down to subsistence level and are involved in begging, crime and prostitution.

      As regards Barcelona and Nigerian prostitutes this is different as these women are trafficked in solely for that purpose by Nigerian syndicates. It is also ironic that it is in traditionly left wing and Anarchist Barcelona that the most attacks on immigrants have taken place as it it is to this industrial area that they are drawn for work.

      Practically non of this gets in the UK press as few of these people actually end up here but the EU is putting a massive military and financial effort into stopping the flow, literally billions of Euros are being pumped into a half dozen West African countries. Planes ships and helicopters are being gifted to places like Mauritania, Senegal and Gambia and for the first time in more than half a century Spanish troops are on the soil of independent African nations running these operations. I,m a bit off target here but if people are interested then I could go into more detail. There are even Asians turning up!

    6. thabet — on 14th August, 2008 at 10:56 am  

      I think the NYT have decided to modify their article to add a small element of doubt:

      “…almost certainly to avoid getting into the pool with an Israeli.”

    7. Adam — on 14th August, 2008 at 11:02 am  

      “The first story is not racist, just juvenile.

      The second story is racist but still worth ignoring.”

      So why couldn’t you then?

    8. fugstar — on 14th August, 2008 at 12:49 pm  

      to iranians from iran. their knowledge of the virtues of israeli existance is fundamentally low. the bro might have been under pressure. not racist, something else, probably unwise. i think in sport the trick is to out compete.

      ive never felt anything but love from spain and the spanish. spain and turkey are beacons of hope

    9. Sim-O — on 14th August, 2008 at 1:45 pm  

      null, who says he was a Zionist?
      But if he was, then fair enough.

    10. El Cid (just passing through) — on 14th August, 2008 at 2:06 pm  

      I guess I’m obliged to comment.
      We talked about this at work yesterday.
      It’s clearly embarassing, mainly because of the naked stupidity behind it.
      Spain’s racist buffoonery sometimes places it somewhere in the 1970s. Along with gobbling up the world’s fish and throwing donkeys off towers, it makes up a trio of modern Spanish sins.
      Still, it is but an iceberg of bile on an ocean of sangria.
      That ad is dumb on two levels: on a corporate as well as on a political level, even if well meant.
      Those commentators who called it juvenile are spot on, even if the ad does reveal something unsavoury about broader attitides to race in Spain.
      However, those of you still trapped in an 1980s world of excessive and boring race-posturing, it is interesting to note that the Chinese didn’t take offence. At least I don’t think they did. When Spain battered them at basketball, I didn’t see any ill-will. (Watch Spain beat the USA to gold to cap a glorious summer of sporting achievement. Hope team GB will hit double figures on Saturday).
      If we are to move to a truly post-racist world, it will not be enough for people to show greater cultural sensitivity. People will also need to stop crying “racism” wiully-nilly, even when they may have a point.
      GB didn’t seem that bothered this week when on the receiving end of a proper insult from Oz.
      Even the Daily Mail took it in its stride: http://tinyurl.com/5vm5x7
      Maybe that’s where we need to get to, eventually.

    11. billaricaydickey — on 14th August, 2008 at 2:07 pm  


      You sound like a good old fashioned Jew hater. Mind you, I’m with the Jews, like the Irish they kick arse.

    12. Mezba — on 14th August, 2008 at 3:05 pm  

      The Iranian one is stupid - they just harm themselves and they think it makes a point. The only point it makes is a mark against themselves. Although there is some doubt as to IF that was the Iranian athlete’s intention.

      The Spanish one I am more prone to question whether it’s racism at all. Ignorant? Maybe. Yes, they may have been making fun of the Chinese. But do they HATE the Chinese? I don’t think so.

    13. Roger — on 14th August, 2008 at 4:09 pm  

      Would the Iranian have withdrawn if he thought he would beat the Israeli?
      Is “null” short for “null and void”?

      There are a lot of different kinds of racism; it’s quite possible that it doesn’t occur to Spaniards that they are being racist until it’s pointed out.

      “generally Spaniards are not hostile to their immediate neighbours. When General Franco launched the attempted coup that turned into a civil way he did so from Morocco using Moroccan troops under Spanish officers.”

      I doubt if that made most Spaniards any more sympathetic to Moroccans, Billerickaydickie.

    14. platinum786 — on 14th August, 2008 at 4:57 pm  

      Can anyone prove the Iranian was faking the sickie?

    15. Kismet Hardy — on 14th August, 2008 at 5:12 pm  

      Prince Philip and Tintin rule

    16. Andy Gilmour — on 14th August, 2008 at 11:25 pm  

      On a slight tangent, on the first day of the Olympics gymnastics coverage, one of the Chinese men’s team slipped while doing assorted near-impossible things on the parallel bars, and when he’d finished the routine one of the Beeb’s commentators said:

      “That’s the first chink in their armour…”


    17. Sunny — on 15th August, 2008 at 1:06 am  

      “That’s the first chink in their armour…”


      Its political correctness gone mad! hehe.

    18. billericaydicky — on 15th August, 2008 at 8:32 am  

      It would depend on your politics at the time Roger. It is generally supposed that Franco and the insurgent officers had little support but that was not the case and large sections of the population were relieved at the coup attempt which they saw as bringing stability to the country.

      It is interesting that what is racism is being asked. Perhaps the Spanish are not being racist atall but just pointing out the different racial characteristic of chinese people which is obvious to anyone able to see.

      This brings us back to the pc madness of the 80s when people like Linda Bellos ran reigns of terror in town halls across London. Remember tea and coffee with or without milk and chalkboards? It seems ludicrous now but people lost their jobs over this madness. Like with what is black I am still waiting for a definition of racism

    19. Trofim — on 15th August, 2008 at 9:16 am  

      I distinctly remember Vietnamese anti-American demonstrations, including parading captured American pilots, in the mid-sixties. There were always one or two grotesque Uncle Sam parody figures with large triangular white paper noses, characterising the south Asian perception of westerners as people with big noses. I can’t say I remember any of us so-called “caucasians” being “offended” then. The liberal elite hadn’t yet developed the culture of thin-skinnedness, which is now the norm. Who cares if people think I’ve got a big nose or imitate it? Should I cry, complain, shout “bigotry, racism” etc? Of course not. Let them take the piss out of me and my race. Sticks and stones is the attitude I was brought up with.

    20. Ravi Naik — on 15th August, 2008 at 10:14 am  

      Like with what is black I am still waiting for a definition of racism

      Finding the definition of “racism”, perhaps, is a good starting point to avoid cheapening it by using it in every damn context.

      To me, racism is the belief that people who share common physical traits, such as skin colour, are also bound by other characteristics such as intelligence and behaviour. People who are racists are against miscegenation because it follows naturally that superior traits are “dumb down” with those from lesser races. The reason why racism is wrong - besides the fact that science (biology and genetics) say that racist beliefs are unfounded - is that it pre-boxes people because they are born a certain way: you are born X, so therefore you are Y. Prejudice and bigotry.

      So, in that context, I don’t see how either case (Iranian swimmer and Spaniard basketball team) can be considered racist. The former seems to be a political gesture, something utterly unacceptable in the Olympic games - and I would severely punish anyone for such actions if it was indeed deliberate. The latter seems - and I agree with what was said before - a juvenile stunt. It seems harmless in the context where they - as Spaniards - are the minority in China. But it is not funny at all when you are East Asian and you are teased in Europe because your eyes are different. I believe 4th graders in Spain deserve better sport role-models than this.

    21. MaidMarian — on 15th August, 2008 at 11:31 am  

      billericaydickey - Racism is like pornography, I can’t define it but I know it the second I see it.

      The picture was not racist - offensive and (certainly) ill-advised perhaps but not racist.

      Indeed, I am reminded of my Taiwanese friend who always told me that she felt Europeans all looked the same.

    22. billarickdickey — on 15th August, 2008 at 5:37 pm  

      Maybe you are right on this. Or is Annais Nin pornographic when she talks of sexual desire from a women’s point of view?. Or James Baldwin from that of the point of view of a black gay man?

      I think you are off track on this one. Sunny is probably going to bar me for this one but I have evidence of the proclavities of leading members of London BNP for black rent boys! Mmm, that will get tongues wagging!

    23. billarickdickey — on 15th August, 2008 at 5:38 pm  

      Should have said that my last post was in response to Maid Marion.

    24. MaidMarian — on 15th August, 2008 at 6:36 pm  

      BD - Exactly right, racism too subjective to be boiled down.

      One knows it when one sees it, however unsatisactory that might be. We all just have to rub along and strike some sort of balance.

      I’m rereading Women on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy and trying to work out whether it is feminist, sexist or both.

    25. Roger — on 15th August, 2008 at 9:54 pm  

      ” large sections of the population were relieved at the coup attempt which they saw as bringing stability to the country.”
      You have a strange definition of “stability”, billarickdickey: a civil war lasting nearly three years and several hundred thousand dead.

      “This brings us back to the pc madness of the 80s when people like Linda Bellos ran reigns of terror in town halls across London. Remember tea and coffee with or without milk and chalkboards? ”
      How many people did Linda Bellos guillotine? No, I don’t remember tea and coffee with or without milk and chalkboards. I remember stories about them in the gutter press, but I don’t remember any actual demostrable occurrences.

    26. rewindit — on 16th August, 2008 at 12:49 am  


      Racism? If you call racism the spanish team photo. In this commercial all the three dumb seeds are foreing.

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