The Disgusting “Names” Darren Sammy Was Given Show Us That Even Our Cricketing Heroes are Racist

Social Commentary

The Disgusting “Names” Darren Sammy Was Given Show Us That Even Our Cricketing Heroes are Racist

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

The heinous murder of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in the United States has led to protests in many parts of the world and reignited the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The conversation around racism has taken centre stage as people and celebrities alike share tragic stories about having to deal with systemic racism in various societies.

The row has reached the Indian Premier League, with West Indian cricketer Darren Sammy alleging that he was subject to racism from fellow teammates in the Sunrisers Hyderabad dressing room. Sammy expressed anger upon realising the meaning of the word “kaalu”, which was used to describe him and Sri Lanka’s Thisara Perera.

Sammy began his five-minute video by talking about Hasan Minhaj’s latest episode of Patriot Act and the attitudes of Indians towards African-Americans. “So I was listening to Hasan Minhaj as to how some of the people in his culture describe black people. Instantly, I remembered that when I played for Sunrisers Hyderabad, in 2013 and 2014, I was being called the exact same word that he described,” Sammy said.

Sammy pointed out that whenever the word was said, everyone around would laugh and since he was a teamman, he never realised something problematic was being said. He thought it meant something like “strong stallion” and people around were laughing only because it was funny. “You know who you are,” Sammy said. “Now, I realise it was degrading, I will be texting you guys and I will ask you as to when you called me with that name, did you all mean it in any bad way or form?” he asked.

“So before I start calling out names I need these individuals to reach out and please tell me there’s another meaning to that word and when I was being called it, it was all in love,” Sammy said in his Instagram caption.

The claims made by Darren Sammy about the SRH dressing room are corroborated by an old Instagram post of Ishant Sharma’s, where the fast bowler has used the same racial slur in his caption to describe the West Indian cricketer.

A few days back, Darren Sammy also tagged the International Cricket Council and asked them “to speak against social injustice”. “This is not only about America. This  happens everyday. #BlackLivesMatter, now is not the time to be silent. I wanna hear you,” he wrote.

Indian cricketers have remained quiet on the issue so far, with the exception of former all-rounder Irfan Pathan. He pointed out that there’s also discrimination based on faith in the country, wherein people struggle to buy or rent a house in a society, merely because of their faith.

Racial slurs against dark-skinned people are commonplace in India. Fairness creams are endorsed by some of the biggest celebrities in the industry even to this day. If a world-class cricketer, playing at the highest level of the game has to endure degrading slurs from his fellow teammates as they all laugh away to glory, what hope does the common man have? It paints a rather stark picture for ordinary folk in the country, who must hear these slurs being normalised in daily life, at schools, colleges, and offices. As Sammy aptly wrote on Twitter, if you don’t stand up against injustice, you are also part of the problem.