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Strangers to Ourselves - Part 2

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In my previous post I cited Julia Kristeva, French Bulgarian psychologist, who suggest that to relieve the conflicts born of our xenophobic tendencies we must acknowledge the 'stranger in ourselves.' Some recent incidents suggest that not only is her theory correct, but more invidiously, we are often strangers to our inmost selves.

The first incident that struck me was the video of English soccer fans in Paris shoving a black man to keep him from boarding the train while singing 'we're racist and that's the way we like it!' Now the team these cocky bigots support happens to be Chelsea, a team roundly derided by their rival clubs' 'homeboys' for employing African players, foremost among them Chelsea icon, Didier Drogba, the stouthearted black Ivorian who led Chelsea to its greatest victories.

So how does one explain such discrepant behavior? In line with Kristeva's theory it would seem the urge to conform within the social hierarchy conflicts with the fan's inner child who craves to escape the coercive power that comes with 'belonging' and so seeks a champion to enhance his identity. No matter if that champion is a dark-skinned mercenary, the chance to boast 'being top' vanishes the taint. Still the damning question remains: would those boorish fans feel shame had the man they shoved from their train turned out to be one of their team's venerated heroes?

The second episode involved the former coach of Italy's national soccer team, Arrigo Sacchi, who bemoaned the fact so many of the players in a recent Italian youth tournament were not white. Challenged on his bigotry, Sacchi took offense, claiming he was a patriot only lamenting the lack of Italian players being developed. How could he, a man who had coached outstanding black players be considered a racist?

And here is where the issue gets tangled. Sacchi is not wrong to suggest that appearance assigns one's public identity. No one would see the man those Chelsea supporters victimized and ask why they are shoving that poor Italian. Nor would one wonder why they are harassing that young Frenchman, if he had been the black Lyon-born Chelsea phenom, Kurt Zouma. Society trains us to make our assumptions. So here's the thing: skin color does and can suggest a person's value, but that value perception is dependent on circumstance. Dark skin is no impediment so long as it serves the power structure which, being a deliberate stranger to itself, purports to be colorblind. Viewed historically, it appears that color prejudice intensifies when, instead of representing strength and moral nobility, dark skin augurs backwardness and poverty. A perceptible threat to those who already feel forced to compete for society's most meager rewards. The antagonism grows as the ostracized dark child is no less conflicted-- she also yearns to 'fit in' and find a champion that will defend what she believes to be her true identity. So it is for, Coach Sacchi. For as long as his public 'identity' also satisfied his inner hero he could give a fig if Italy's World Cup winning team was stacked with Argentinians.

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Guest Sunday, 17 December 2017

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