Suarez’s new comments re-open discussion
Luis Suarez has a new book out which is being serialised in The Guardian, unsurprisingly one of the chapters talks about the Suarez & Evra incident back in 2011. The title of the chapter is “Racist”. He talks about aspects of the incident in an interview with the paper’s Simon Hattenstone.
The Uruguayan striker talks at length in an extract today about his pain that his image has been tarnished and that when you search for his name on the internet the word ‘racist’ often appears next to it.
Luis also tells us that he won’t ever speak to Evra again, that he had to sit around waiting to appear at the four day FA Disciplinary Committee hearing and that he is ‘not a racist’.
Suarez also talks about the way he intended the word ‘negro’ which he said to, or called Patrice Evra several times during the match, (as documented in the FA report).
He contends that it is meant in a friendly sort of way in Uruguay and isn’t offensive. To Patrice Evra though, it sounded like he was being called ‘black’, multiple times. Negro means black in Spanish.
In some South American countries, including Uruguay, where there are few black people, negro is sometimes used by people to refer to friends, independent of skin colour.
However, Evra is black and the word was said several times while the pair argued, including in phrases like “I don’t speak to blacks”, “because you are black” and “OK blackie, blackie, blackie”.
Should Suarez have known that this was an inappropriate word to use on the field of play, with a different meaning to Uruguay, after living and playing in Europe for four years by 2011?
Regardless of you opinion, the key fact about this incident, and also why the FA banned Suarez for eight games and fined him, is that Suarez’s intention is irrelevant.
Patrice Evra was offended by what was said and a lot of other people were too. Even knowing about the cultural difference in use of the word in Uruguay, it still has the power to offend. What is a friendlier phrase to use when talking to someone, rather than referencing the colour of their skin? Their name; and we can be sure that’s the case in the UK and South America.
As for Luis Suarez’s distress at seeing the word racist next to his name on the internet, perhaps an apology to Evra that acknowledges the offence, unintentional or otherwise, caused would be a good start to counteract that.
Show Racism the Red Card believes it is wrong to ‘label people’ as ‘racist’. Some people can behave in a racist way and through education and support, behaviours can change.
Unfortunately, when high profile stories about racist incidents occur, like the Suarez/Evra and Terry/Ferdinand incidents. Much of the public debate focuses on whether or not an individual is ‘a racist’ or not, which is actually a missed opportunity.
The public debate should focus on how people who have behaved in a way that could be considered racist can, accept it, learn from it and change their behaviours.
The media often talks about ‘labelling’ or ‘branding’ people, as we can see from this case, that misconception is very unhelpful.