Friday 9 January 2009

Failing the cricket test

Cricket game
In 1990 Norman Tebbit gave an interview in which he questioned the loyalty of immigrants to the U.K. by asking which cricket team they supported. Putting aside any pedants (most Scottish people would fail the cricket test) and accepting the metaphor, a better question would have asked why some ‘fail’ and whose ‘failure’ it really is.

When I was 14 I took part in a school football match before which one player ran around the pitch shouting “There’s no black in the Union Jack”. Whilst this boy (who was prone to writing the initials NF on any available surface and who later joined the police force) was more than capable of beating me to a pulp, it is to my eternal shame that I failed to say anything. I don’t believe we are a fundamentally racist country but there are still too many of us who fail to speak up when we should. Is it any wonder that immigrants in such a hostile environment may sometimes look to their country of birth for relief?

Such problems are compounded by the internet which has become a powerful source of disinformation. I recently read of a primary school in Birmingham where a boy was told that for PE lessons they could wear football league shirts - but NOT an England shirt as it could offend others.

This story isn’t true; yet it features at the start of a chain e-mail currently circulating that includes all sorts of spurious ‘information’ justifying why ‘they’ should adapt to ‘us’ and not the other way around. If we truly are a tolerant people then we should question whether the problem is real and if so why; we should even entertain the idea that we may in some way be to blame.

I don’t doubt that similar stories exist, but consider that we are a country of 50+ million people and local government is prone to silly behaviour from time to time. Why is it that this particular story should have been so readily believed? Why is it that though white immigrants are far more likely to fail the cricket test than those from ethnic minorities, this doesn’t invoke nearly as much ire?


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