White people with bananas is not the best way of tackling racism

During Sunday night’s game between Villareal and Barcelona, full-back Dani Alves was the victim of racist abuse when a member of the crowd threw a banana at him. Alves causally bent down, picked it up, peeled it before eating it and then taking a corner as if nothing had happened.

But something had happened. 

The reaction of the rest of the world was to praise Alves, rightly, for the way he handled the matter, something as a white person I have no real hope of truly understanding, no matter how enlightened I think I am. If you haven’t been persecuted, threatened and abused because of the colour of your skin, the arrangement of your chromosomes or your sexuality, it’s hard to truly grasp what it means to be a member of a persecuted minority, as much as we would all like to.

Social media sprung to life. By the end of Monday Twitter was awash with people all posing with a banana in solidarity of Alves – the hashtag #wereallmonkeys was born.

Leaving aside that we are all great apes who share a common ancestor with monkeys and not actually monkeys, I get the idea and I support the premise that we are all one and the same but I still couldn’t shake the feeling that there is something inherently wrong about white people posing with bananas in support of a person who has been racially abused.

I spoke to my followers on Twitter about and, sure enough, quite a number of black people came back to tell me that they felt ‘uncomfortable’ about it to say the least.

The banana has been used as a tool of oppression by white people, something to ‘remind’ black people of their station in life and ensure that they don’t get any ideas that they might possibly be just as equal as the rest of us. It has been wielded with spite and it is not for white people to ‘reclaim.’ White people with bananas is where some of the trouble started, we should be putting them down, not picking them up in record numbers.

Of course, there are those who think me saying that white people shouldn’t be posing with bananas in this fashion is, in itself racist. I would implore those people to go out and investigate what racism actually is. Pointing out that members of one race, which has systematically oppressed members of another, probably shouldn’t be making light of the whole thing using something which has traditionally been used as an object of insult in the first place is not quite the same as being systematically oppressed. 

I get that the whole thing is meant in a positive way, I really do. I just think that it’s a little bit misguided and a little bit offensive.

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Lee Hurley

Writer specialising in good football and bad relationships. If in doubt, assume sarcasm.