By Michael De Gale
The world gasped when Zinedine Zidane landed a devastating head butt squarely in the chest of Marco Materazzi during the final match of the 2006 World Cup game in Germany. What no one witnessed at that time was the psychological violence unleashed on Zidane, coloured athletes in every sport throughout their professional careers and peoples of colour the world over on a daily basis. Zidane’s head butt was not the source; it was the effect of racist behaviour that has been allowed to fester in professional sports and in society as a whole. It was a reaction to the cancer of racism that eats away at the moral fabric of societies, putting a strain on human relations and rendering harmonious co-existence among human beings virtually impossible.
It is easy to condemn Zidane for losing his cool in the final 10 minutes of his illustrious career. It is even easier to speak of the negative message his actions may have sent to the youths, but the fires that almost consumed France last summer had nothing to do with Zidane. However, if Zidane’s reaction to racists’ taunts was to lash out and that is the message that the youths embrace, then so be it. If they react violently, it is not because of Zidane, it is the pervasive system of racist conduct that refuses to acknowledge the humanity of mankind’s darker brothers
Malcolm X would have been proud of Zidane. He and history tells us that violence is the only language that racists’ understands. The world cup was a microcosmic representation of the world that placed human behaviour in the spotlight. I will not be surprised if taunting Zidane with racial epithets was not an integral part of the Italian strategy to win the much coveted title of World Cup champions. It is the story of life – men seeking gain at the expense of other men. Instead of making concerted efforts to eradicate the incendiary issues of race, religion and a myriad of contentious issues that divide people, politicians and other misleaders pay lip service while exploiting the needs, fears, hopes and desires of people to maintain power, profits and positions.
The world will never be free from racism if everyone remains silent and “dignified” in its presence. It is criminal for anyone to tolerate behaviour that diminished others and still reserve the right to dictate the victims’ response. At best, those who advocate restraint and speak of dignity are sadly mistaken. At worse, they do not have the best interest of the victims at heart. As racism becomes increasingly pervasive in the US, Germany and throughout the world, responsible Governments must act swiftly to eliminate this scourge otherwise the victims will take the matter into their own hands.
The main reason the US did not attack the USSR during the Cold War era was because of the distinct possibility of a devastating reprisal. By contrast, the US unilaterally attacked Iraq because they were certain that Iraq was in no position to retaliate. Now the US and Russia have established friendly relations while Iraq is currently under siege. Israel and Palestine provides yet another example where tyrants will unleash tyranny on those whom they perceive to be weak and therefore vulnerable.
I will not demonize Zidane for his conscious decision to retaliate in the face of psychological violence. In fact, in my eyes he has grown in stature. He has stood up when those with the power to end racism have often chosen to sit. How much longer must we endure the pain of racists’ actions and continue to turn the other cheek? How much longer must we suffer in silence as we try to maintain our dignity when our best efforts so far have been futile?