Picking on the poor little racist

Posted in Oh hell no by Nancy on May 30, 2010

I am desperately trying not to get into a comment war on the NZ Herald website, to explain to thick-skulled commenters why Andy Haden’s insinuation about “darkie” rugby players is not okay.

I don’t follow rugby (or any other sports, for that matter), but some things are offensive no matter what interests they relate to.

Here are the facts:

1. Rugby World Cup ambassador and former All Black Andy Haden goes on Murray Deaker’s show and says the Crusaders franchise has a maximum quota for “darkies”.

Once they’ve recruited three, that’s it. That’s their ceiling. Three darkies, no more. In the Crusaders manual, there it is, it’s enshrined in their articles and they’ve stuck by that. And they know damn well that that’s the case. And it’s worked.

2. Haden insinuates this contributes to the team’s success, feeding theories that teams perform better with less non-white players.

3. Haden apologises for the “darkie” comment causing offence.

4. Fiji-born All Black Bernie Fraser agrees and says “bloody coconuts” need “simple concepts”.

5. Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres says this all more evidence rugby is mired in a racist past.

6. Haden keeps his position as ambassador, people feel sorry for him because everyone is “too bloody PC” these days and “took his comments the wrong way”.

Despite the mind-blowingly racist insinuation that ‘browner’ teams = dumb teams, Haden’s recent apology is a typical un-apology, paying lip service to the fact that he offended without realising the gravity of his fuck up as an ambassador. This is supported by Rugby World Cup minister Murray McCully.

“Look, some people are going to be happy, some people are going to be unhappy with the decision we have made today. But if we were to take out everyone that made a mistake and shoot them we would sooner or later run out of people to do things in this country … I think we have to accept that a mistake was made, it’s been addressed by Mr Haden and I’m satisfied to leave it there.”

How very lovely it is for Haden to use his prestige and privilege to go on television and stoke the fire, essentialise and suggest discriminating against brown players, and then back off after the damage has been done. How easy it is for Minister McCully, a white man in a position of power and influence, to dismiss the concerns of those who have been offended with a flippant ‘everyone makes mistakes’. Not only does this downplay the offence caused, it  paints victims of the racial stereotyping as hysterical and too sensitive (as usual).

Was Hone Harawira given such lenient treatment when he angrily used the word ‘whitey’? Harawira was labelled divisive, dangerous and radical, and the Maori party wasted no time in distancing themselves from him and apologising deeply and sincerely for the offence and damage caused. Did any minister leap to his defence and say to white folks, ‘get over it’?

It saddens me that Fraser jumped on board to say, in Haden’s defence: “I mean, Christ, when I was playing I was the biggest racist outI regard myself as a coconut and I call every other Polynesian a coconut.” Just because he is comfortable using racist terms towards himself, displaying a sad acceptance of self-hate and racism, does not mean it excuses others who perpetuate that damaging mentality.

Bernie Fraser labels himself a ‘coconut’

Watch this video, Andy Haden on Polynesians in 2009.

Love that he refers to the issue as ‘the Polynesian thing’.

I typed out a part of it as best as I could:

I’m not saying that polynesians are a lower IQ, but the white boys think about the game differently than the Polynesians, the Polynesians do think about it like their body type, explosive, physical, high-energy, shorts bursts, whereas the white boy probably trucks on and finds a way to get to deal with the issues to get around them rather than through it, so thats a tendency to be something thats not been well addressed.’

It wasn’t that whitey was doing the thinking and those guys were playing the physical side of the game …We got on and did it very well and we can do it .. And thats what the game is about, being able to get on with someone who is swinging a hammer during the working day just as well as some guy whose got a barrister’s wig on, and thats one of the fascinations of the game … that Polynesians and white cultures can get together and work well on a rugby team.

Oh of course, essentialising aside, it’s all because “those” Polynesians swing hammers and white people become lawyers.

How would it feel to a young Polynesian male to have this message reinforced by successful former All Blacks: “Son, you’re brown, so although you won’t be a leader on our team we can certainly use you for your brute, animal force – but failing that, you’ll do well in manual labour”.

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