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In imperfect world, race does matter

Does racism still happen? I?ve never faced any racial incident myself so I could easily say it doesn?t. But to turn a blind eye to the loads of incidents happening on a daily basis would be unfair, writes Aakash Chopra.

india Updated: Sep 13, 2006 13:42 IST


I was contemplating playing in the Birmingham league next year and was talking to some people about the league when, for some reason, the conversation veered around to this club there. Lots of money, very propah, lovely grounds and surprising for Birmingham, which probably has the largest proportion of Asians in England, not a single "black" or "brown" person there.

The stories about that club and the tales we have been hearing from all over the western world at the moment took me back a few years, to HCC, one of Holland’s richest cricket clubs. The club professional used to get (what was by many standards) a mansion overlooking the club grounds, in addition to a hefty pay package. I was playing for a club called Gandhi and had scored some big centuries against HCC in home and away games. I was sure of having made a few fans and was looking forward to the possibility of getting a contract with them for the next season.

But that was not to be. I was told that even a couple of double centuries wouldn’t have got me a contract there. The club would not have an Asian or, for that matter, any coloured professional. There was not a single black member at the club and it was not a coincidence.

Though no one ever admitted it openly, there was more to it than meets the eye. I was naïve then and to an extent, I still am. The question is, does racism still happen? I’ve never faced any racial incident myself so I could easily say it doesn’t. But to turn a blind eye to the loads of incidents happening on a daily basis (some small, some big) would be unfair.

Just to find out, I met up with a Pakistani cricketer who’s born and brought up here and has seen life here change over the past 28 years. Barring a couple of racial comments, he says he hasn’t faced any major incident himself but since he works for the ‘Department against Racial Aggression’, he deals with a lot of incidents on a daily basis.

According to him, incidents are of different natures and differing intensity. Most still go unreported, and out of those that are reported, it’s difficult to nail the offender due to the lack of evidence. The most common form of racism is that of someone making a racial comment and to prove the crime, you need a witness and evidence… and it goes without saying that it’s never easy. Crimes of this kind are motivated by different incidents, like 9/11, the London tube bombings and the latest fiasco at the Heathrow. The offloading of Asian nationals in Frankfurt was just one example of the influence of current circumstances.

Then there is another kind, much more severe, cruel and serious. People’s houses have been burnt and they’re beaten up because of the colour of their skin. These incidents are fewer, the offenders mostly end up behind bars but these incidents are generally not influenced by the current political circumstances or any incident.

Last but not least is racism under the influence of alcohol. All town centres here, nightclubs, pubs during nightime have wit nessed these fights, as have football grounds where skinhead hooligans have used beer as an excuse to make their mark for racism.

Safety in numbers has been an unspoken mantra for years and densely populated Asian areas across the country are an apt example. There are areas you don’t want to be stuck alone in at night if you aren’t white, and vice-versa. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like that everywhere. I myself have a number of English friends and they’ll stand by me through thick and thin. That is the case with a majority of educated English people.

The English are a very accommodating race and have always welcomed people with open arms regardless of race, colour or religion but there are always the exceptions. Unfortunately, they are both vocal and volatile. After all, it isn’t a perfect world.

The writer can be reached at

First Published: Sep 13, 2006 13:36 IST