Thursday, 22 December 2011

Luis Suarez and the N word

We won't know for a couple of weeks if the Liverpool striker Luis Suarez intends to appeal against the decision by a FA tribunal to ban him for eight matches and fine him £40,000 after it found him guilty of racially abusing Manchester United fullback Patrice Evra during a match.  The facts though appear clear and are seemingly not in dispute.

Suarez called Evra "negrito", Spanish for "little black guy", at least ten times. He contends, apparently with some justification, that the term can be used in his native Uruguay as the equivalent of the English "pal" irrespective of whether the person being addressed is black or white.

"Negrito" is the diminutive of the Spanish word "negro" which simply means "black" and was used by socialists and liberals and black people fighting for their rights in Britain and the USA up until the 1960's when "black" became the preferred self-description .  "Negro" today is at best outdated and at worst offensive and I would only use it in a historical context, for example when referring to the Negro Leagues that existed before major league baseball was desegregated in the late 40's.

Liverpool has predictably defended Suarez to the hilt, adopting a "our player right or wrong" attitude.  One of the more distateful aspects of their PR campaign is the wearing of Justice for Suarez T-shirts by Liverpool players and the display of similar signs by fans in the stands which mirrors and demeans the legitimate campaign by relatives of those who died at Hillborough in 1989 to discover the extent to which police and stewarding failures contributed to the deaths of their loved ones.

I think Suarez knew exactly what he was doing when he baited Evra and the line of defence he would use if he was challenged about it.

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