Sammy talks about racial slur
The word brought back painful and uncomfortable memories.
While watching a show on Netflix released shortly after the killing of George Floyd – a 46-year-old Black man who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes – West Indian cricketer Daren Sammy heard comedian Hasan Minhaj describe the term “kalu” a word that is used as a racial slur in the Indian subcontinent.
Sammy says his mind immediately went back to when he played in the Indian Premier League with the Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2013 and 2014 – and in particular, when the nickname “kalu” was used to describe him and another player who declined to comment when offered the opportunity.
The nickname became so commonplace that Sammy says he even used it to describe himself.
Sammy believes that the same emphasis should be placed on anti-racism as is put on anti-doping or anti-corruption.
In those years with the Sunrisers, Sammy and his teammates reached the IPL playoffs. He says one of the main reasons for their success was the “unity and the camaraderie and the way we fought for each other.”
Fast forward to 2020 and all-rounder Sammy – a former captain of the West Indies team – experienced a range of emotions, as he began to realise how “kalu” is actually used.
In a video he posted on Instagram, Sammy called on former teammates who used the nickname to reach out for a conversation about the word.
He says he’s since had one former teammate say he was “operating from a position of brotherly love”. However, Sammy believes the term is not appropriate and should no longer be used.
‘Right is right’
Sammy’s realisation came just a few days after Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis, US on May 25 and during the protests that followed shortly after.
“It came at a point in time where racism and social injustice and systemic racism was at the forefront of everybody’s mind,” Sammy said.
But Sammy’s social media accounts show a number of people defending the nickname. Their argument is that the word isn’t racist and is just a nickname.
However, Sammy says the ongoing usage shows there is still a huge “part of the (South Asian) culture that really needs educating”.
“As someone who leads, you have to have the difficult conversations and I’m not afraid to have it. It doesn’t matter,” he says. “Right is right. There’s no wrong time to do the right thing.
“That’s part of the educating and talking about those subjects that will help bring awareness out there into that culture.”
Parvez Rasool, one of Sammy’s Sunrisers teammates in 2014, said that it is “unfortunate” if the term was used against Sammy.
“If someone has used such words against Sammy, it’s unfortunate,” he told CNN. “I was a part of the team, I thoroughly enjoyed playing under his captaincy. He is a very jolly man.
“This conversation never happened in front of me. But, if someone has used derogatory words against Sammy it is extremely unfortunate.”
The Board of Control for Cricket in India, which regulates the IPL, didn’t immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
‘I believe I’m beautiful’
Although officially abolished in 1950, Indian society is still largely categorised by caste.
The caste system categorizes Hindus at birth — defining their place in society, what jobs they can do and who they can marry. Those at the bottom of the system are called “untouchables.”
And in Indian popular culture, people from lower castes are often depicted as having darker skin. Sammy believes this crossover between caste and colorism explains some of the prejudice he sees in India, “where the powerful really suffocate the less fortunate,” he said.
“To me, that symbol of the cop kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, that’s what it showed to me. It was like a man in power suffocating somebody who can’t help themselves.” (CNN)