Wed | Aug 23, 2017

White beauty and the black beast

Published:Friday | January 8, 2016 | 1:00 AM
Chelan Smith

Recently, Chris Gayle came under fire for making a rather ill-timed and awkward attempt at flirting. Gayle flirting with a woman wouldn't normally raise eyebrows, but this time it was special because it was on air.

Normally, I wouldn't pay it much attention; I deliberately avoided links showing the clip. I felt it was much ado about nothing and would soon dissipate from public interest. Whew, was I wrong! By the end of the day, headlines branding Chris as sexist and disrespectful started appearing. Finally, I gave in and I watched the clip. My initial reaction was, "Oh, God, Chris, why?!" but I also felt that the outrage was misplaced.

As a fierce defender of women's rights, I'm not certain if I'd call myself a feminist, but I do believe all humans should be treated equally until they give up that right. I say this because after watching the initial interview between Gayle and Australian reporter Mel McLaughlin, I am compelled to agree with Chris that the reaction is out of proportion.

In the story carried by The Gleaner, "Cricket Australia Chief Executive James Sutherland joined the criticism of Gayle's suggestive comments, saying it bordered on harassment and was inappropriate in the workplace."

Clearly, I missed something. Chris Gayle cannot possibly be the first athlete to flirt with a reporter. In fact, as someone in media, I know it's a commonly used tactic to sometimes throw off the interviewer. Nevertheless, I got to researching, and sure enough last year NFL player Rob Gronkowski flirted with a reporter and she laughed and flirted right back,

But even more interesting in January 2014, Maria Sharapova flirted heavily with an Australian reporter who was granted an interview after to ask, "How great do you feel?" Let's look at July 2014 when Chris Gayle flirted with an Antiguan reporter. He was criticised as sexist also, but in no way was the backlash as great.

 

RACE RELATIONS

 

Seeing these examples, I cannot completely disregard the notion that at the base of this uproar is the disbelief that a rich, black athlete would have the audacity to flirt with a white woman, on air at that! How dare he?! The ugly fact is that throughout history, society has constantly positioned the white woman as someone to be protected from the powerful and harmful black man. We've seen it with Emmett Till in 1955, who was killed for flirting with a cashier, and we see it today in 2016 with Chris Gayle.

He is being publicly flogged for albeit ill-timed and awkward, flirtation with a white woman, plain and simple. I have even heard calls for him to lose his job. I think a better solution would be to train him in tact and timeliness.

So while I wish this didn't happen and I hope he has learnt his lesson, I will not be joining the bandwagon for the lynching of Chris Gayle.

- Chelan Smith is a blogger and TV presenter. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.