It’s clearly not cricket
I am proud to live in Yorkshire. Sadly, I can’t describe myself as a Yorkshirewoman as I’ve only been here for 20 years and am still considered, in local parlance, an ‘offcumden’ but I love Yorkshire and it has done much to love me back. The county has a population larger that Scotland – more than five million of us call Yorkshire home and it is socially, culturally, and economically significant to the wealth of the United Kingdom. It is an area of great natural beauty – of moors and mountains, dales and coastlines, rivers, canals and vast wooded areas. It has a strong agricultural and urban economy though it is not all thriving. As well as successful cities and charming villages, there are post-industrial towns that have not found a new purpose and (as elsewhere) poverty lies at the heart of many towns, cities and even villages. This is frequently addressed through individual generosity and community initiatives but there are many issues which are too wide-ranging and deep-seated to be resolved by individual acts of kindness.
My pride in Yorkshire partly reflects my belief that the cultural, religious and ethnic diversity of Yorkshire is one of its many strengths. People from all over the world have arrived in successive waves of migration, contributing to our infrastructure and wealth and adding to our vibrant heritage. But that pride was recently severely shaken by revelations from Yorkshire County Cricket Club. Azeem Rafiq, a player of Pakistani heritage who was very successful at youth level, has emerged as the victim of racist insults that should never happen in 2021 but, much worse than that, the failure to take his complaints seriously has revealed systemic failures on the part of senior staff and board members that can only be described as institutional racism.
Others have been equally shocked and distressed and have taken swift action: major sponsors have withdrawn and the Government’s Department of Media, Culture and Sport has invited Rafiq to speak to them under parliamentary privilege. A new Chair, Lord Patel of Bradford, has been appointed to the Yorkshire board, and he is rapidly addressing reports of racist behaviours and encouraging others who have been abused to come forward. This brings some hope, but sadly Yorkshire is not unique and nor is cricket. Many people will remember the dreadful abuse suffered by Black members of the England football team following the Euros, and so-called fans of many sports up and down the country regularly abuse and threaten the players they are ostensibly there to support.
Azeem Rafiq had the courage to speak out and finally he is being heard. We should thank him for shining a spotlight not only on his own situation and the culture in which he was forced to operate but also for drawing significant media attention to a problem that has been festering below the surface for too long. It is very hard to challenge authority figures when they employ you, especially in sport where selection methods are often opaque.
Most organisations, including schools, have policies and procedures to address abuse, but terrible things too easily become normalised. And that is just the surface. What about all the players who are not selected, the employees who are nor promoted, the educators who fail to acknowledge the negative aspects of our history as well as the positives and the lawmakers who think that we have already gone too far in confronting our colonial past and its legacies?
As educators, we must listen and learn from these kinds of events, not least because children and young people are often aware that they are happening. We also have responsibilities in relation to teaching about equalities, insisting on appropriate language and behaviours and knowing exactly what do when things go wrong. How can we support children and young people to respect others, understanding that everyone from every background brings unique strengths to each situation and how can we give them the confidence and courage to challenge when they become victims or see things that they know are not fair?
Ros Garside, trustee of the Values and Visions Foundation, Educational Consultant and mentor
Find out more about Ros here