Earlier in the month Rio Ferdinand responded to a tweet referring to Ashley Cole as a ‘choc ice’ with good humour. He agreed it was ‘classic’ and a series of textual laughter ensued not realising he was creating more issues in the John Terry saga. Ashley Cole acted as a defence witness in the John Terry court case, in which Terry was cleared of racially abusing Rio’s brother Anton in a league game last October. Now the FA have formally charged Rio for his actions.
As a university student my dissertation was on race relations in sport and it is a subject I have always felt strongly about. Growing up in a multi ethnic area and attending a school with many different people from many different racial and cultural backgrounds perhaps first alerted me to my interest in the subject.
The term ‘choc ice’ refers to somebody who is black on the outside but white on the inside, I remember it being used at school and back as a naive pre adolescent it seemed perfectly acceptable. Now however I feel strongly about the word.
The connotations of the term create an image in which to be ‘truly black’ a person has to adhere to certain ideologies and stereotypes. Listen to certain music,dress a certain way, act a certain way. Without knowing it the term is instantly demeaning to black people; that you cannot dress like you want, listen to what you want, effectively DO what you want as a black person, without underneath it all, a white person is trying to get out. For example in the States, a country with Barack Obama as president, it is far more likely for young black men to aspire to, at a surface level, be the next Lil Wayne or LeBron James; because to work hard at school for instance may be deemed as a ‘choc ice’ thing to do, it’s a situation that Obama himself has addressed.
I think this is where Rio Ferdinand didn’t understand the connotations of what he was agreeing with. By agreeing he gave weight to a term that strengthens backward ideologies of race.
I also feel it is important to point out that by criticising Rio it doesn’t necessarily mean I agree/disagree with the court’s decision to clear JT. It is also important to understand that this case is deeply personal for Rio; it’s his little brother remember not to mention 2 professionals he has shared an England pitch with on many occasions. Two people he may have considered or still considered friends also taking to the dock. If we are honest he probably lost his place in the England side because of this conflict. In the heat of a deeply personal moment I feel Rio may have gone one tweet to far.
What do you think? Is ‘choc ice’ offensive? Should Rio be punished, and how?
images: © hitcdc