What year is this? Where am I?
I logged in to my Twitter account this morning and saw that someone named “Wayne Simmonds” was trending. The name seemed vaguely familiar to me, but I couldn’t place it. I clicked on the link and up popped a screen announcing and denouncing what happened to Mr. Simmonds at a pre-season game last night held in London, ON. As I read posts and articles, I felt my blood run cold. While skating toward the goalie taking the first shot of the shootout, someone threw a banana in his path. Wayne Simmonds is a black man. Let me repeat: someone – in 2011 Canada – threw a banana in the path of a black man.
I’d like to say right now that I do not believe that everyone in a smaller city is racist, nor do I believe that everyone is perfect. I do believe, however, that all people deserve the same rights and that NO ONE is of lesser standing in our world due to race, gender or sexual preference. It truly and honestly boggles my mind when stories like this surface. Who in their right mind thinks, “Hey, there’s gonna be a black guy playing at the game I’m going to tonight. I’m gonna show him what I think and bring a banana to the rink to throw at him.”? Hey, asshole: choke on your fucking banana.
Simmonds reaction was cool, calm, collected and, to me, heartbreaking: “I don’t know if it had anything to do with the fact I’m black,” the Toronto native said. “I certainly hope not. When you’re black, you kind of expect (racist) things. You learn to deal with it.” How do we live in a world where this is someone’s attitude? It’s a mature stance, unquestionably; but it’s enraging to know that someone “expects” racist attitudes. He grew up in my hometown and I’m ashamed to think that he has adopted this mindset to cope with ignorance and hatred. As a woman, I have most certainly encountered many sexist people and my instinct is to teach first, squish into the ground later. Same goes for anyone who spews racist bullshit rhetoric around me, though I must admit this drives me more insane than sexism (whether it should or not).
There are a number of questions I have with respect to this incident: what was it, exactly, that was going through this buffoon’s mind when s/he left the trailer that day? What did the fans around him/her do? Were they his/her friends? Did they cheer? Did they sit silently, twiddling their thumbs? Were they as horrified as they should have been? Did they say ANYTHING to this person? Did anyone come forward to officials to report this?
We have an answer to that last question already and it’s a resounding, disappointing, maddening, vile no. No one seems to have done a damned thing. That says even more than this situation, I think, than the person who threw the banana. Turning a blind eye to this contemptible racist behaviour does nothing to solve a problem that, incredibly, is still prevalent in 2011.
I am not naive enough to think that racism has been abolished. I am a perpetual idealist and optimist, though, which is why when something this despicable happens I am truly shocked. I read several accounts of this story wherein the perpetrator is labelled, “a fan.” Frankly, this is a knock on real fans. I have written before about my views fandom and while I certainly don’t agree with booing the home team, it’s an understandable and typical reaction. This? This person shouldn’t have the privilege of being called a “fan.” This person is a blight on real fans and, more importantly, on society at large.