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Opinion What Mbonambi allegedly said was not racist

BEN COWLES, who is covering the sports desk this week while Bella Katz is on holiday, explains why he won't refer to ‘white c**t’ as a ‘racist’ slur

YOU might have noticed that the Morning Star, unlike most other papers, has not referred to South Africa’s Mbongeni Mbonambi’s alleged slur against England’s Tom Curry as racist. There are a few reasons for this.

Unlike the N-word (or the countless other derogatory terms for non-white people), calling someone a “white c**t” is not based on hundreds of years of domination, oppression or an ideology based on racial hierarchy — in which rich, white, straight, cis-gendered western European men sit atop.

It is my understanding that the whole idea of race and racial hierarchy came about during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries during the transatlantic slave trade.

European rulers worried that poor Europeans in their new American colonies would unite with enslaved Africans (who they wanted for manual labour after killing off the natives) and rebel against them.

It was a way to divide and rule then, to remove the humanity from our fellow human beings. This is still a tactic the powerful use to this day.

Worse, we have inherited this ideology of racial hierarchy and it is still baked into many of our institutions.

Calling someone a “white c***” isn’t very pleasant. It’s bigoted, of course, and using the C-word as an insult is also rooted in misogyny. But it isn’t racist.

Claiming that it is is either a misunderstanding of racism or a deliberate tactic to stir up hatred and/or to delegitimise anti-racism. Take a look at the way the right-wing media are covering this incident. For the likes of GB News, it’s like all their Christmases have come at once.

Unless Mbonambi says he is, or it is proven that he believes in a structure of racial hierarchy, then we will not refer to what he allegedly said to Curry as racist.

Finally, there could also be doubt on what Mbonambi actually meant even if he did say what Curry claims.

According to Google translate, the Afrikaans term “wit kant” — which in a South African accent can sound like “white cunt” to British English speakers — means white side.

Mbonambi may have been telling his teammates that it was England’s ball. Maybe the team jokingly referred to England in that way knowing what it sounds like to us. Hardly the worst crime in sport.

Let’s not forget that Mbonambi is a black South African man. At 32 years of age, he was young when the apartheid regime fell. But his family, community, and entire country carry the trauma of that injustice.

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