Racism: Not "Just Words"

Those who have never been marginalized, discriminated against, antagonized, abused, or even simply treated differently based on race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation or other inherent attribute often do not understand. They say to someone being abused that they are "just words" or tell them to "just ignore" whatever form of discrimination. Telling someone that they are above the abuse while the abuse continues doesn't change what racism actually is and does. Racism takes a level playing field and sets certain people on a lower level. Because racism is not "just words."

Not just words

No matter how Ibratastic your mentality is, and even if you do not let discrimination get under your skin personally, racism and other forms of discrimination take your power away from you. Maybe you still feel powerful personally, but the words, chants, abuse, or even just treating you differently for something you cannot change points out that you are different. Not just to you, but to everyone else who witnesses it. Discrimination affects how others see you, even if you don't let it affect you. This is where the power is taken. Not that everyone with working brain cells thinks you are a "fu**ing monkey" if you are one of the best defenders in Serie A and a few people call you that.  

The power is taken from you in that you are publicly belittled, derided, humiliated, or even just visually or audibly segregated as different. Set apart, made a spectacle of. Treated as less than. Usually, this is done by those with perceived power, such as a racial or ethnic majority to those who are marginalized or considered a minority. Not even the best performance on the pitch can get that power back to you. If you are the one being abused or discriminated against, you no longer have the ability to take your power back because it is no longer yours to take. Racism is not "just words."

When those tasked with stopping racism don't even understand it

Many have tried to take their own power back, but it doesn't work like that. Just like a physical attack, you cannot take back punches thrown. Dani Alves notoriously picked up a banana thrown at him and defiantly started eating it. Everyone applauded him for it. But what did actually that do? He didn't get his power back. He ate a banana, just like the implication fans were making of him being an animal that eats bananas. Not his teammates, just him.

Many athletes have spoken out about racism, including our own Maignan, who was recently abused by Juventus fans. His statement was eloquent, personal, and direct. But it didn't change the fact that he was abused. It didn't give him his power back. Worldwide, everyone heard that he was singled out for the color of his skin instead of who he really is: a human being. An athlete. A Milan player. A badass goalkeeper. All of those things get lost when others assert discrimination upon a human being.

Being strong or speaking out doesn't mean it didn't happen

Even Ibrahimović, who has the mentality of steel and the physical ability to back it up was visibly bothered last year when Red Star Belgrade fans shouted ethnic abuse toward him, his body language showed it. Even if he could "just ignore it," they were insulting his heritage, his father, and his family, and no one should ever have to hear those "just words," especially given the history behind them. Maignan mentioned how it impacts his family, and Cuadrado spoke up to agree with him. Racism impacts everyone.

Discrimination like racism differs from name-calling or other bullying, because it is based on the color of your skin, where you are from, what gender you are, or other things that you cannot actually change. It is demeaning beyond "just words" about things you said or did, because you had control of those situations. Discrimination sets you apart, you are treated differently, usually less than, and sometimes emotionally or physically abused or worse. 

Clearly this solved the problem

Italy and Serie A have a horrific track record of racism, largely because they do not understand what it is. As the majority ethnicity, they set players apart because they look different or come from different countries. Even attempts to revere players are racist, like calling Ruud Gullit the "Black Tulip" because he was black and from Holland. Or calling Clarence Seedorf "Willy Wonka The King of Chocolate" because his skin was the color of chocolate. It's not just blacks, either. People from Paolo Maldini to Ibrahimović have been called "zingaro," or gypsy, because of their ethnic heritage. 

United against discrimination is the only solution

While I have written about racism so many times, the racial abuse of Serie A players continues. People say it's "just a few idiots," but when they are banned from the stadiums, there are always more to replace them. Making banners and t-shirts or tweeting "no to racism" or making statements with the hashtag "#RespACT" doesn't change anything. Not even banning the perpetrators changes anything. The only positive thing that impacted racism in calcio was when Ambrosini led the entire Milan team off the pitch when Boateng was abused in a friendly. No respect? No football. Other attempts to do similar things have resulted in punishments for those who were abused and walked off. Why, I will never know. Racism will only change when everyone else around these people steps up and says "This is not okay." Racism ends when there is education, equality for all, and intolerance for discrimination of abuse. Racism ends when everyone takes action to stop it. Especially those who are not the victims.

Taking a knee until the playing field is level for everyone

Singling someone out for being different, even when attempting to do it in a positive way, is discrimination. Abusing someone for being someone or something they can't change is not just abuse, it is also discriminatory, sets them apart, and takes away their power. Racism affects every person who witnesses it. They are not "just words" or something to "just ignore." Until you and everyone else stands up and stops making excuses or even punishing "the few idiots," racism and other forms of discrimination will continue to fester in our society. Maybe you or others are not actively discriminating to others, but if you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.

This post inspired by the music of They Might Be Giants' "Your Racist Friends"

Racism: Not "Just Words" Racism: Not "Just Words" Reviewed by Elaine on 12:30 AM Rating: 5
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