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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Spanish Basketball Flap in China


"Affectionate gesture"?


This week, a photo was released of the Spanish basketball team in China. The photo, taken as an ad for a Spanish courier company, shows the players with their hands on their faces slanting their eyes in an apparent mocking of Asian eyes. Apparently, the pose was prompted by the company photographer. Understandably, the Chinese were not amused (they subsequently booed the Spaniards in their game).

What remains to be seen is if this will blow over in the rest of the world including Spain. The players are, for the most part, embarrassed over the reaction.

Reasonable people can disagree over the degree of criticism that should be levelled. Who is more culpable? A group of young athletes or the photographer and the company that thought the pose would be so cool?

Certainly, one would think that some of the athletes would have said, "Time out. This is not a good idea." Apparently, no one did. The one player who seems to belatedly understand that a mistake was made is Pau Gasol, who plays for the LA Lakers in the NBA. On the other hand, Jose Calderon, who plays for the Toronto Raptors, claimed it was an "affectionate gesture".

My reaction is this: Are Europeans currently less culturally aware than we Americans? An interesting question since many Europeans have criticized America's race relations for many years. Yet, Spain has witnessed some unfortunate recent incidents involving black soccer players.

Or is it a question of which ethnic group is being mocked? Europeans seemingly are super-sensitive to anything that offends Muslims since they have so many Muslims living in their countries. Are they less sensitive to sleights against Asians? Can the same be said of Americans, who are super-sensitive to anything that could be considered offensive to blacks?

Is there a sliding scale as to which ethnic groups can or cannot be offended? I suspect there is, as raised in the above paragraph.

My point is that all ethnic groups should enjoy the same protection, and that there should be no sliding scale. The Spanish photo was offensive, especially considering the fact that it was taken in Asia.

A lot of apologies are in order.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I dunno if you heard, but there is also a photo of the Spanish tennis team doing the same thing. Pretty disgraceful. The basketball team was properly jeered by the Chinese fans when they played.