I ENJOY WATCHING him play (like I do all basketball players), but I’m not a Russell Westbrook fan. (Westbrook is a rich, talented and oftentimes moody pro basketball player in the American NBA) However, he did something that I admired recently. Knowing : (1) he risked tipping the balance of public sentiment against him, (2) he would be fined regardless of who would be found at fault, and (3) he was already a polarizing media figure, he went ahead anyway and retaliated (verbally) against a racist taunt made against him in the course of an NBA game last month. (his response wasn’t perfect, but if you were confronted with a racist taunt against you, how perfect would yours have been?) Opinions were mixed, but ultimately he was proven right, and vindicated.
Doing the right thing, not necessarily popular thing, standing up for your race, humanity and beliefs isn’t an easy thing in this emotionally charged, hyper PC day and age. I call what he did his moment, or the Russell Westbrook moment.
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Fast forward to a few days ago, in the Ashburton area (township and surrounds) of New Zealands, Canterbury region (the cradle and hotbed of rugby union excellence). Population of around 35,000, probably a goodly portion of which are migrants, of which a lot are Filipinos.
On an Ashburton Facebook page popped up a neighborhood watch type post about an intruder spotted in a residence, fair enough for a neighborhood FB page. Unfortunately the post-er proceeded to describe the intruder as “Filipino looking.” The certainty and certitude of the poster was beyond doubt, no ifs and buts about it. The post is as you’ve probably already seen reproduced above.
The comments that followed the post , unsurprisingly, are numerous and varied, but heartwarmingly the identities are not just but mostly Filipino, the outrage palpable. If not for the unique English used, you could almost feel the anger, the incredulity and the viciousness of the responses.
It takes a kabayan (countryman) to make out and understand the comments, but the gist is this: who are you to judge firstly that your unknown intruder is a Filipino, and then to make a sweeping judgment that Filipinos are thieves or criminals?
The comments could’ve been more circumspect , made in a more diplomatic way, or the Pinoys in the area could’ve referred the matter to police, just to get the heat off them.
But no. Instead they let off steam and let known to the poster what his comments were: hurtful, indiscriminate, and for the words and context, simply racist.
There is a place for tactful and positive discussion, and there is a place for immediate response. The Filipinos of Ashburton did not have time nor patience, and for this situation they chose the latter.
This was their Russell Westbrook moment. This was our Russell Westbrook moment.
Mabuhay po kayo Ashburton kabayan!
(for the curious, here’s a capsulized version of the Russell Westbrook incident. thanks to The Guardian website.)