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Ah, cricket. A world away from the creation/evolution debate, right?
Actually, on the basis of recent events reported widely in the news media of the world’s cricket-playing nations, I would argue otherwise. And these events have now culminated in the International Cricket Council (ICC), for the first time ever, banning a player for ‘racial abuse’.2
That player is India’s off-spinner Harbhajan Singh. During the just-completed five-day Test Match at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Australia’s captain Ricky Ponting lodged a formal complaint with umpires Steve Bucknor (West Indies) and Mark Benson (England). He reported to them that Harbhajan had called Australia’s all-rounder Andrew Symonds a ‘monkey’.
Following the completion of the match, the ICC held ‘a marathon eight-hour hearing’ to consider the issue. Match referee Mike Procter (South Africa) said he was satisfied that Harbhajan had indeed used the word ‘monkey’, and that he had intended to offend Symonds on the basis of his race.
Consequently the ICC has ruled that Harbhajan Singh is guilty of racially abusing Andrew Symonds, and have banned Harbhajan for three Tests—which would mean that he would take no further part in the rest of the current Series against Australia.5
Andrew Symonds, declared ‘Man of the Match’ in the Sydney Test, January 2008. But one of his Indian opponents, Harbhajan Singh, called him a ‘monkey’.
Despite the widespread media coverage,6 I’ve yet to see any news report or official commentary on exactly why the term ‘monkey’, directed against Symonds, constitutes ‘racial abuse’. And it’s not just in relation to this latest ‘event’—in recent months the media have widely reported similar ‘racial abuse’ instances against Symonds and other ‘black’ participants in international cricket:
It seems I’m not the only person to have noticed that the news reports, and official commentary, have not provided the crucial information as to why ‘monkey’ taunts directed at people with dark-coloured skin should be considered racist. Here are three extracts of postings from various blogs on the issue:
Interestingly, that last question from blog-poster #3 is very similar to one put to an Australian cricket official by a radio talk-show host in October last year, after Andrew Symonds was subjected to ‘monkey’ taunts in Vadodara and Mumbai. The talk-show host, Madonna King,15 asked the cricket official why is it that the word ‘monkey’, directed at a black player, is racist, but the word ‘donkey’ is apparently okay to use? The cricket official hedged, then replied by intimating that ‘all sledging is bad’—thus dodging the crux of the question about ‘monkey’ vs ‘donkey’ completely, and Madonna King did not pursue that question further.
But today’s bloggers apparently have no such qualms, and the ‘missing information’ that officials and news outlets have not published has been spelled out by some of the more knowledgeable blog-posters, e.g.:
Exactly right. Blog-poster #E’s comment goes to the heart of our recent article in Creation magazine: ‘Do monkeys play football?’ Here’s an extract from that article:
It’s not just black people who are the victims of ‘monkey’ taunts. Even US President George Bush has been likened to a chimpanzee.16,17 And magazine cartoonists in the 1800s lampooned Charles Darwin by drawing him as an ape.18
Although mocking of these notable public figures in such a way is considered humorous or disrespectful (depending on the leanings of the viewer), I’ve never heard it described as ‘racist’. And herein lies the key—when white people are likened to monkeys and apes, it’s not racist, but to equate black people with monkeys and apes is racist.
To discover why, we can look to Darwin himself. Because it was his ideas that led to him being mockingly drawn as an ape—it seems he was the first man ever to be thus portrayed—and it is his ideas which fuel ‘monkey’ jibes towards black people today, and explain why such jibes are considered ‘racist’.
When Darwin popularized the theory of evolution, he clearly suggested that some people are ‘more evolved’ than others. In that context, it was easy for people of European ancestry to forget that western achievements in science, literature, music, government institutions, etc., arose in large part out of the energising freedom, mutual trust, and call-to-fruitfulness ideals provided by a biblical worldview. Instead, many people of British and European ancestry imagined that their ‘evolutionarily advanced’ societies reflected their superiority over other ‘races’—especially black ‘races’.
Thus the beguiling popular drawings showing an evolutionary transition from dark monkey/ape to white human became increasingly the popular perception/view. So today, because evolution is presumed to be true, making monkey noises at a black person is construed as ‘racist’, i.e. demeaning black people relative to whites.
In other words, when the media reports that monkey innuendoes are racist, they’re accepting a deep-seated evolutionary worldview that some people groups are less evolved than others—specifically, blacks are less evolved than whites. Of course they don’t dare put it so bluntly—it’s simply assumed. And now the authorities are trying to stamp out such innuendoes.19 This is a classic example of society reaping the consequences (e.g. racism) of what it has sown (evolutionary teaching). Many in authority, it seems, have accepted (if not overtly promoted) the teaching of an evolutionary worldview, yet are unwilling to accept its consequences.
[End of extract from Creation magazine 29(3):12–14, June-August 2007—and now accessible online in our archive here.]
As our Creation magazine article went on to point out, the only effective solution to ending racism in cricket, and elsewhere in society, is to return to a biblical worldview. Man, made in the image of God, is no monkey. It was not a monkey who made 162 not out in the first innings, 61 in the second innings, and who took 3 wickets in last weekend’s Sydney Test, and who was declared ‘Man of the Match’ at the end of the game. No, it was a man, named Andrew Symonds.