Ross Taylor: “I’ve been an anomaly, a brown face in a vanilla line-up”

*Ross Taylor from Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License*

Recently retired blackcap and cricket legend Ross Taylor has outlined his experiences of racism in his new book, Ross Taylor: Black & White.

These revelations - as if such claims of discrimination in cricket can be classified as ‘revelations’ any more -  serve to reaffirm a reality that has been experienced by so many for so long, yet has been not acted upon by those in positions of power.

In an extract published in the New Zealand, Taylor  said that team-mates had to "put up" with comments about their ethnicity often passed off as "dressing-room banter."

New Zealand Cricket said it was "deeply concerned he's been exposed to this type of behaviour".

Taylor emphasises that the Polynesian community is "dramatically under-represented in the game" and he is sometimes mistaken for being "Maori or Indian".

Taylor added: "In many ways, dressing-room banter is the barometer. A team-mate used to tell me, 'You're half a good guy, Ross, but which half is good? You don't know what I'm referring to.' I was pretty sure I did.

"Other players also had to put up with comments that dwelt on their ethnicity. In all probability, a Pakeha (white New Zealander) listening to those sorts of comments would think, 'Oh, that's OK, it's just a bit of banter.'

"But he's hearing it as white person and it's not directed at people like him. So, there's no pushback; no one corrects them. Then the onus falls on the targets. You wonder if you should pull them up but worry that you'll create a bigger problem or be accused of playing the race card by inflating harmless banter into racism. It's easier to develop a thick skin and let it slide, but is that the right thing to do?"

In response, New Zealand Cricket (NZC)  has "reached out to Ross to discuss some of the comments in his book, both to better understand the details of them, and to offer support. These discussions are ongoing."

They added: "We consider him an important part of our cricket family and are deeply concerned he's been exposed to this type of behaviour."

Same Story, Different Day

Taylor's experiences really shouldn't be shocking. 

If you're shocked, then you are either ignorant, in denial, or both.

This honest account shows just how pervasive  discrimination has become in the modern world: in cricket or otherwise.

NZC have outlined their commitment to helping Taylor, and take tangible steps to stopping this behaviour.

But the fact that this is prevalent in a nation that, it has to be said, does a better job than most at pursuing socially and morally just policy shows how far we have to go.

For now though - stand up and commend Taylor. 

After facing more challenges than any white player in his position would have in his career,  he has retired as New Zealand's all time greats.

Perhaps more important than anything he did on the field, though, is the fact he's found the courage to speak up on such an important matter.

He's taken a risk in exposing and discrediting those who fostered, or indeed are fostering, an environment which normalises discrimination.

Let's just hope that Taylor's words aren't lost into the ether like so many, and they lead to accountability in the game. 

For, without accountability, we'll just be counting down the days until the next Ross Taylor beats the odds, in the hope them speaking up might change something.


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