We in society need to decide which is more important – fighting racism or destroying the people who report it.
Cricket whistleblower Azeem Rafiq was quick last week to apologise and accept responsibility for his anti-semitic language in messages suddenly unearthed from ten years ago. Rightly so. He was out of order.
It was instructive that he received sympathy, however, from the very groups he was accused of insulting. By the end of the week, many of the people most angry were not even Jewish.
Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said on Thursday: “Azeem Rafiq has suffered terribly at the hands of racists in cricket so he will well understand the hurt this exchange will cause to Jews who have supported him.
“His apology certainly seems heartfelt and we have no reason to believe he is not completely sincere.”
Another allegation has since surfaced, underlining the fact that, like the rest of us, Rafiq clearly does have the kind of flaws for which he has to be held accountable.
But where was the energy to examine his past when it looked as though his whistleblowing would fall on deaf ears?
The 30-year-old is doubtless steeling himself for what might come next as his critics continue trawling his social media use going back years. Also digging up anything else that might further smash the widespread public sympathy that he drew last Tuesday with his testimony in front of MPs.
Yet in the next breath we call on cricketers and other people who may have suffered racist bullying to come forward.
Why would they, when they see the way that Rafiq’s image is being systematically trashed? Would you?
Because you’re kidding yourself if you don’t think that the last few days would have left players and people up and down the country deciding they’d be better off suffering in silence rather than finding their voice to expose institutional racism.
Our society has matured (hopefully) enough to stop trawling through the histories of the victims of sexual assault.
But we know that the response to allegations of both forms of discrimination has always been to discredit.
Rafiq revealed himself that after he first spoke out at Yorkshire County Cricket club in 2017, when he’d been talked of as a potential captain, he was described in the board minutes as “a problem, a troublemaker and an issue that needs to be resolved”.
Someone, somewhere, appears to be doing just that. Trouble is, none of Rafiq’s misdemeanors negate the cricketing culture he exposed as being rotten to the core? What they do is underline the hypocrisy around the so-called fight against racism. We have to remember never to lose sight of that fight.