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Spanish society must be educated to solve problem with racism

Published on: 30 April 2014
Dani Alves

Unfortunately, acts of racism such as a banana being thrown at Barcelona star Dani Alves by a Villarreal fan are nothing new in Spain.

From England’s national football team being racially abused in Madrid in 2004 to then-national coach Luis Aragones insulting Thierry Henry with a racial slur and Lewis Hamilton being subjected to racist chants in Barcelona six years ago, discrimination based on skin colour has been a major issue for many years.

Essentially, there is simply a very different perception of what the world ‘racism’ actually means than in many other parts of the developed world.

Perhaps that’s to do with the fact that there are fewer black people in Spain and the native population has therefore had less opportunity to overcome their ignorant prejudices, but whatever the reason it has created an environment when casual racism is rife.

The use of the word “mono” (monkey) to describe black people is tossed around casually in everyday life, without anyone raising an eyelid – even by people who would be aghast at being labelled racist.

Clearly, that state of affairs is unacceptable and it has been heartening to see the swift and universal condemnation to the banana-throwing incident at El Madrigal.

Unlike other recent instances of racism which were more or less ignored – Marcelo being subjected to racist chants by Atletico Madrid fans, for example – there has been an overwhelming rejection of the treatment received by Alves.

However, don’t expect an overnight change in attitudes in Spain. Prejudices of that nature, especially when they are held casually, almost unconsciously, take a long time to be turned around.

Spain is in a roughly similar situation as England in the 1980s, when John Barnes was the one being pelted by bananas and the anti-racist ‘Kick It Out’ campaign still didn’t exist.

It will take that amount of time, and a similarly sustained effort from the authorities (which is currently lacking at both a sporting and political level), before Spanish society significantly advances towards inclusiveness.

Prejudices can only be truly overcome by education rather than threat, so talk of strict punishments for offenders and stadium bans won’t actually do much to tackle the real problem – although it might make racists less likely to express their opinions.

Spanish society, therefore, needs to embark upon a long-term and committed programme of education, starting in the classroom but also including high-profile public campaigns similar to ‘Kick It Out’, which has undoubtedly made a positive difference in the UK.

Perhaps, though, the most immediate impact of the Alves incident will be to end the use of bananas as a racist symbol.

Throwing the fruit has long been a ubiquitous course of action for racists. Alves’ reaction and the social media craze he has spawned could change that by effectively disempowering the racist impact of a banana and turning it into a figure of fun.

The next time a racist thinks about throwing a banana, he or she will be aware they are most likely to be subjected to mockery, and nobody wants that – especially insecure bigots.


This article has 5 comment(s), give your comment
  • Benny says:
    April 30, 2014 12:52 pm
    Racism is as toxic as tribalism which is deep rooted in Ghana perpetuated by those clueless politicians and endorsed by the stupid populace who vote not by policy but by tribal affiliation. Here in the I vote anybody with sound policy.l voted labour from 1997 to 2010 and voted the conservative 2010. You ask most people why they vote Npp and they say because l am Ashanti .Most ewes will say the same about NDC. I am yet to meet anybody to racially abuse me and get away with it.I don't call anybody white because no human being has a white colour skin.My skin is brown and l don't tolerate being call black. Ghanaians refer to Chinese ,Indians,Lebanese as white and l can't help but laugh. Those countries being referred as white namely U.K,Germany,Canada,USA,Holland,Australia and New Zealand marked as IC1according to the metropolitans police colour coding are no where near white. Spanish ,Italians are not included in the so called white category.They are IC2. I find it disturbing about some ignorant pillocks throw banana at somebody . If we are to go by the baseless theory of evolution the first person on earth was in Africa .Every human being on earth has an African gene.It is sad especially tribalism.
  • selfmade says:
    April 30, 2014 01:42 pm
    If u think education is the answer to stop racism in football then am sorry to say that u simply living beyond our present space and time which is impossible!! What happened to all the matches that has been organized by footballers and victims to educate both sectors against racism? What happened to the blueprint by FIFA to curtailed racism using kpb as its ambassador? Racism cannot be solved by mere rhetorics by footballers parading in suits and interacting with FIFA officials!! This is a more serious issue and demand a serious action from black footballers!! The one and only way racism can be solved once and for all is going back to MALCOLM X theory or principles! A tooth for a tooth and an eye for eye! If u do me, I do you! I don't understand why black people forget MALCOLM X and his wonderful theories! Wouldn't it be nice to see the Spanish national team hooted massively and severely by black fans bearing placards of PIGS with a drawing or a painting of xavi or iniesta with a pig face! In fact this ll be one of the most serious and damaging thing that ll bring world attention to racism! They throw bananas at us and make monkey noises and we throw PIG FOOD to them and show them pig pics!! Wldnt it be nice to see the Spanish fa president painted as a PIG eating from a thrash can and show to live audience! This is the only RADICALway racism ll be taken serious!! All the education, black players eating bananas are total bull!! We can even extend the gesture by showing PLACARDS of all the white FIFA executives as PIGS too and I know this ll hurt them a lot to start taking serious actions against racism!! WE DESTROY AND RE-BUILD!!
  • Benito says:
    April 30, 2014 02:17 pm
    Benny you are entitled to your opinion but your choice of words "stupid populace"to refer to your own people is rather careless and unfortunate.
  • selfmade says:
    April 30, 2014 02:26 pm
    Again people are sympathising with Daniel alves but am not becasus afro Brazilians has done nothing to fight against racism!! U see for the last two decades, afro Brazilians has produced the most powerful, influential-players the world has ever seen and these players are not only influential but have a world wide appeal and audience! Romario, Ronaldo the phenomenal, ronaldinho, rivaldo, denilson, robinho, Roberto carlos, dunga, ze Roberto, dida and a whole host of them who could have walk out of an important match becasus of racial abuse but they have not and now it seems the tidea is changing and it wouldn'tbe pretty! U can imagine how the world ll tackle racism if dinho has walked off the field to show solidarity to a racially abused player! They didn't careless becasus at that time, all the racist taunts were against black players but I can bet anyone that a trend has be set and no one ll be spared by- these racist DOGSA whether African or Brazilian and the time is now to start a MASSIVE POSITIVE DEFIANCE using MALCOLM X theories in football!! This is the only way out and WE DESTROY AND WE RE-BUILD!! If persuasions failed, FORCE MUST BE APPLIED!
  • Benny says:
    April 30, 2014 03:18 pm
    Benito of course l am entitled to my opinion and l am l not apologetic about it..It is sad that in Ghana you don't use stupid,useless when a situation demands it.l always say things as it is. How do you refer to somebody who votes because of tribal affiliation ? How do you refer to somebody in high office in Ghana who gives a job to somebody because of tribal affiliation.That is pure discrimination and it is perpetuated by stupid People .So you read through my comment and the only thing you pick on is my choice of words,sad l owe nobody an apology. Here in the UK this week a party called UKIP had to sack to reps because of stupid racial comments against dark coloured skin person. You probably condone all form of homophobes' but l don't.Facts are sacred but comments are free.