Frimpong gets it wrong on racism

Despite my desire to see Frimpong play in today’s match, he wasn’t named to the squad, after which he promptly put his foot in it by tweeting, in response to a follower’s question about why he wasn’t playing, “Sometimes I wish I was white and English #realtalk”.  Sigh. While I’m hoping that he was just being glib about the issue, it’s

fiendishly hard to be glib about anything as complicated as race and racism, especially in light of the tempest Jack Wilshere found himself in regarding who should play for the Three Lions or Jack Jebb’s four-game ban for racist abuse. It’s even harder to say anything sophisticated or nuanced on twitter, so putting this issue in front of a 21-year old and asking him to leave no wiggle-room for misinterpreting his comments is a fool’s errand. That said, Frimpong looks foolish for having stated himself so carelessly, and I again hope that this again proves to be another molehill made into a mountain.

Let’s use a few statistics to refute Mr. Frimpong’s claims, if only for a moment to acknowledge the gravity of the racism row. According to census data released 27 March 2011, 3.48% of England’s population is categorized as “Black/African/Caribbean/Black British” (report available by clicking here). At the risk of making broad assumptions about the racial identities of men I’ve never met, contrast that against the demography of Arsenal’s first team, which is 27% black. Gibbs, Sagna, Frimpong, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanogo, Diaby, Gnabry, and Zelalem can all authentically claim some degree of blackness. Fudging our math if only for the moment, this means that Arsenal’s first team is almost nine times blacker than England as a whole. What’s more, when fit, five of these men rightfully have earned and can expect to start more games than not (let’s not get into the glut on the right wing with Walcott, Ox, and Gnabry).

While the following has nothing to do with the current squad or manager, one of the first black players to appear in the Prem was Viv Anderson, who made his Arsenal debut in 1984 after playing ten years for Nottingham Forest. In other words, then, Arsenal seems more than comfortable with the idea of ethnic diversity. Bringing things back to Arsène, here’s a manager renowned (or infamous) for bringing players for far beyond England’s shores to play for Arsenal. It’s ironic to then suggest that he’s somehow opposed to playing someone because of his race.

Sure, the departure of players like Alex Song, Gael Clichy, Ashley Cole, or Gervinho have lightened things up a bit, as has the chronic inavailabilitiy of Abou Diaby. Still, the suggestion that Frimpong isn’t playing today because he’s not English or because he’s not white is beyond ridiculous. Let’s hope that Frimpong had tongue planted firmly in cheek and the the subsequent reactions from been overwrought. Society has come a long way from the days when Anderson saw lesser players named ahead of him and had bananas and monkey-chants shower down on him when he did play—but those days still plague us, as I’ve discussed previously, here and here, for example. The real shame of Frimpong’s gaffe is that it will make the next racist incident easier to racists to get away with, as they and their defenders can say, “every time something doesn’t go their way, they just cry ‘racist'”. It’s just another version of the boy who cried wolf.

Come to think of it, maybe Manny should be made to read that story and complete a worksheet or two on how the story relates to his comment.

It’s probably closer to the truth to suggest that Frimpong just isn’t quite good enough to feature for us. Had we drawn a lower-tier opponent, things might be a bit different. As it stands, though, we’ll face a sterner test from Chelsea, and Frimpong is one of few odd men out this time ’round. Unless his ill-advised tweet really blows up in his face, he’s bound to get a chance to prove his critics wrong—on and off the pitch.

Right. Well, there’s a match to be played. Let’s hope Frimpong has learned a lesson about what’s worth saying and confine his tweets to “good match today” or “check out my new shoes”. The deeper issues deserve a forum bigger than 140 characters. #realtalk.

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4 thoughts on “Frimpong gets it wrong on racism

  1. Anonymous

    As much as I agree that 140 characters doesn't begin to address this issue in anyway. I don't think he's stupid enough not to understand the procedure involved in getting into the first team and very sure he's seen his fair share of white English players (amongst others) axed and released since the beginning of his long tenure at the club.I'm more inclined to believe his excuse that it was non football related. Why? Because it is a feeling felt by many. Think; Oprah's treatment in that designer store in Switzerland, recent BBC expose on estate agents, flagging down cabs or getting into clubs, these are a few moments many people feel and repeat the same statement “Sometimes I wish I was white and English.” Sad but true. Lets not act like these feelings are ill placed everywhere. At Arsenal and for team selection, yes but in a wider societal engagement definitely not.I'd hate to see anyone diminished to a clothes horse or a mere emotionless extension of the company that employs them on twitter. I just think arousing discourse on twitter needs to be better timed, placed and with full conviction. #realtalk

  2. Anonymous

    He is that stupid. He is a young kid who hits send before taking time to actually think anything through. He is not good enough to play at Arsenal for starters, the only reason he is not gone now is Wenger was waiting to see if Flamini would work out and the squad is thin. I'd bet he will be out in January in any case…but calling your gaffer a racist is not a good way to get anyplace with your current club. For that matter he has been raising enough red flags he may well get the rep as being troublesome. Other managers do take note…

  3. Anonymous

    Not to mention it is ironic that such an attitude comes from a kid who has had it all on a platter since age 15. A millionaire (at least to be if he does not fuck up any more) victim. He can fuck off to Hartlepool and reconnect with reality as far as this Gooner is concerned.

  4. Anonymous

    Your choosing to believe that it was directed at the squad selection, I beg to differ. The fact that it had enough ambiguity that it could be taken in that way is the worst thing but I'm sure he's explained himself and it was never meant like that. He's a player that's been at the club for 12 years and wants to play the Arsenal way.Sadly my Oprah anecdote was to illustrate that you can be a billionaire and still be a victim of racism. So lets not assume that a small time black footballer isn't accustom to the same treatment.You don't become a squad member for a champions league qualifying team by having it all on a plate. They all work very hard at being the professionals they are and its disingenuous to suggest anyone has had a easy ride. It's an extremely high pressure environment that requires the utmost resilience.With Arteta 31 and Flamini 29 theres still room for Frimpong 21 in that squad and the only way he'll be leaving in January is on loan. The squad is still very thin and we can only hope that Frimpong comes of age soon, remember he was injured not to long ago so we need to be patient. Remember the loan spells Song had before he eventually earned his regular place.


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