Zuniga v. Neymar: NYT Misses the Massive Irony

Colombia’s Zuniga breaking the back of Brazil’s star Neymar Jr.

From the New York Times:

Neymar’s Injury Sidelines Effort to End World Cup Racism

RIO DE JANEIRO — After an episode in Peru earlier this year in which Peruvian soccer fans subjected a Brazilian player to racial abuse by imitating the sounds of monkeys, President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil swiftly pledged a “World Cup against racism,” declaring, “Sports should be no place for prejudice.”

Yet when Brazil’s top player, Neymar, broke a vertebra when he was kneed in the back during a match on Friday by a Colombian player, the torrent of racist insults against the Colombian, Juan Camilo Zúñiga, showed how far the host of the World Cup remains from achieving that goal.

Expressing fury over Neymar’s injury, which sidelined him for the rest of the tournament, some Brazilians took to social media, including Twitter and Instagram, to express their rage against Mr. Zúñiga with racial slurs.

“It might be stunning to a lot of outsiders, but the way our Colombian brother has been treated shows yet again that Brazil is one of the world’s most racist countries,” said David Santos, a Franciscan friar in São Paulo, Brazil. He directs Educafro, an organization preparing black and low-income students for university entrance exams.

Before injury: Neymar Jr. (as of 2014)

The racism expressed by many Brazilians against Mr. Zúñiga points to the tension that persists in a country where prominent writers and scholars long argued that much of the prejudice and discrimination found in the segregation-era United States had been avoided.

In recent decades, discussion over the legacies of slavery, which was abolished in Brazil in 1888, has shifted. While more than half of those in the population of about 200 million define themselves as black or of mixed race, giving Brazil more people of African descent than any country beyond the borders of Africa, the top ranks of government and the private sector remain dominated by whites.

Brazil has recently enacted sweeping affirmative action laws aimed at increasing enrollment of students of African descent in public universities and the hiring of black or mixed-race candidates for coveted public jobs. Brazil also has legislation explicitly prohibiting racial or ethnic discrimination.

Yet as the Zúñiga episode has shown, soccer remains an area where racism is still openly tolerated by some.

The situation was supposed to be different during the World Cup.

Brazil’s government issued stern warnings against racial insults or other discriminatory behavior during the tournament. Even before the match between Brazil and Colombia, players from both teams held aloft a banner declaring, “Say No to Racism,” a slogan promoted by FIFA, the organization that oversees the World Cup.

Yet Brazil’s racial divide has also come into greater focus since the tournament began in June. Reflecting high ticket prices in a country where blacks still generally earn far less than whites, a poll by the Datafolha polling company suggested that fans attending games were overwhelmingly rich and white.

The Neymar story is actually a lot more interesting than this article makes it sound. The NYT labors tirelessly to raise sensitivity to transgenderism, but why is it so insensitive to transracialism?

Doesn’t the Times know that Race Doesn’t Exist? So, anybody can become any race they want, and only cisracist transphobics are skeptical. After all, if the vaguely “international” or “multicultural” Barry Soetoro (as he was known to his friends up through age 24) can conjure himself into being The First Black President, then Neymar ought to be able to turn his exterior into a reflection of his inner Green Day fan. If Obama wrote a 150,000 word memoir about his Dreams From My Father that he barely knew in order to become a transblack, why can’t Neymar be a transwhite? He could call his autobiography Dreams from Blink 182. (Click here to see pictures of what Neymar looked like five years ago.)