“Brown Face In Vanilla Line-up”: Ross Taylor Opens Up On Facing Racism

New Zealand icon Ross Taylor, who retired from international cricket earlier this year, released his autobiography on Thursday. In the book, titled “Black & White”, Taylor opened up about instances of racism that he faced through his playing career. He spoke about how it would crop up in dressing room banter and in comments from some staff members and officials. He noted that he knew the comments didn’t come from a “racist perspective”, but rather due to “insensitivity” and lack of empathy.

Taylor, who is part Samoan, said he had been “an anomaly” for large parts of his career.

“Cricket in New Zealand is a pretty white sport. For much of my career I’ve been an anomaly, a brown face in a vanilla line-up,” Stuff.co.nz quoted him as writing in his book.

“That has its challenges, many of which aren’t readily apparent to your teammates or the cricketing public,” Taylor wrote.

“In many ways, dressing-room banter is the barometer. A teammate used to tell me, ‘You’re half a good guy, Ross, but which half is good? You don’t know what I’m referring to’. I was pretty sure I did,” he continued.

“Other players also had to put up with comments that dwelt on their ethnicity. In all probability, a Pakeha listening to those sorts of comments would think, ‘Oh, that’s okay, it’s just a bit of banter’. But he’s hearing it as white person, and it’s not directed at people like him. So, there’s no pushback; no one corrects them.”

He said that the onus, then, fell on the targets of these comments, but said it was always a conundrum for the players.

“Then the onus falls on the targets. You wonder if you should pull them up but worry that you’ll create a bigger problem or be accused of playing the race card by inflating harmless banter into racism. It’s easier to develop a thick skin and let it slide, but is that the right thing to do?” he wrote.

“Not long after Mike ‘Roman’ Sandle became Black Caps manager, he said to Victoria (Taylor’s wife) that, when he was manager of the Blues rugby team, he’d observed that the Maori and Island boys struggled with managing money, ‘so if Ross wants to talk about it …’ Victoria laughed it off, and it probably didn’t take Mike long to realise that, however well-meaning, he’d been a bit hasty in his assumptions,” Taylor wrote.

He also spoke about an unwitting comment former coach Mike Hesson made.

“When I came back into the team after the captaincy drama, I found myself sitting next to (coach) Mike Hesson in the Koru Lounge at Dunedin Airport. He’d come straight from his house. ‘My cleaner’s Samoan,’ he said. ‘She’s a lovely lady, hard-working, very trustworthy’. All I could say was, ‘Oh, cool’.

“I have no doubt that Roman and Hess and the guys who engaged in the ‘banter’ would be dismayed to learn that their remarks landed with a thud,” Taylor went on to write.

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“Let me be clear: I don’t think for one minute that they were coming from a racist perspective. I think they were insensitive and lacked the imagination and empathy to put themselves in the other person’s shoes,” the veteran batter explained.

“What to them is a bit of harmless banter is actually confronting for the targets because it tells them they’re seen as being different. Instead of the message being, ‘You’re one of us, mate,’ it is, in effect, ‘You’re one of them’.”

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