Kindness, forgiveness and redemption

English cricketer Ollie Robinson. Photo: Getty Images
English cricketer Ollie Robinson. Photo: Getty Images
English cricketer Ollie Robinson is among the latest to be put in the modern equivalent of the stocks for social media sins from many years ago.

The pace bowler at age 18 and 19 posted racist and sexist tweets.

These emerged on the first day of the first test match at London’s Lord’s cricket ground against New Zealand.

Robinson is now aged 27 and emerged from a difficult time as a teenager to earn respect and, finally, his first test cap.

The revelation of the tweets overshadowed his debut and the test itself.

Robinson appears remorseful and contrite. He apologised profusely to the nation and to his fellow players, and he displayed courage to perform with distinction on the pitch.

Already, he has faced public examination and opprobrium. Nevertheless, he has been suspended from international play while a disciplinary investigation takes place.

Robinson is far from the first person to be pilloried and more for youthful mistakes. He will be far from the last.

It seems the West, notably the Anglo West, has stitched together social media and censorious attitudes. Perpetrators must answer for their misdeeds. Understanding, kindness and forgiveness are buried under the strictures of social justice imperatives.

Individuals are, metaphorically, pelted in public stocks.

Where is the scope for redemption? Where is the chance for clean slates, for growth and change?

Instead, we condemn and punish. We are pitiless in our judgmental self-righteousness.

This is a contemporary take on harsh religious fundamentalism. The dominant creeds must be upheld and enforced without, or with minimal, mercy.

It should be acknowledged the tweets were wrong, and Robinson needed to apologise.

It should also be recognised that racism among sports followers in Britain is a cancer that refuses to go away. There are strong grounds for vigilance and vigour in stamping it out.

Making matters more acute was the fact English cricket made a play of a “moment of unity” before the test. Players wore T-shirts with anti-discrimination slogans.

That does not, however, justify the suspension of a contrite Robinson for teenage misdemeanours. He has already suffered consequences. He still faces a disciplinary investigation.

The cricket authorities, though, given the dominant “correct” climate, felt they had to suspend Robinson.

This particular instance has prompted a backlash. British culture secretary Oliver Dowden, while saying the tweets were offensive and wrong, called the suspension reaction over the top. He has received support from Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Given Mr Johnson’s own poor personal history, that endorsement should be taken with caution and is not entirely helpful.

Nonetheless, Mr Dowden and Mr Johnson are tapping into a belief we have become too eager to cancel and to punish.

What is additionally disappointing, and damaging is that such issues often divide sharply across the Left and Right — as they have in this case.

They quickly become the latest front in the so-called “culture” wars. Fixed positions are lined up on each side. Scope for dialogue, understanding and flexibility quickly evaporates.

Against a background of conflicting pressures, English cricket might now feel it is able to show some future leniency for Robinson — even though he has already paid a high price. It might be possible, as former English captain David Gower has suggested, that Robinson can be used by cricket in the promotion of anti-discrimination.

Hopefully, society realises there can be room to forgive past indiscretions, blunders and mistakes, notably from many years before and from when culprits were teenagers.

We are too ready to judge, too ready to cast the first stone, too ready to condemn.

The tweets should never be condoned, and the highlighting of them brings the issues rightly to the fore.

There must, though, always be a place for kindness and for forgiveness and redemption.

Comments

Racism is finding fault because of Race. Sexism is finding fault with women.

Does he no longer have these views, 8 years on?

Only those who have done nothing have never made a mistake. You do have to wonder about the motivation of those bringing this to light. Seems to be very calculated and vindictive. Par for those of the PC brigade who don't like their views challenged. They are inclusive if you agree with their views - but you get pilloried if you disagree. The media would do the world a greater service by revealing these parasites for what they are.

If you are pilloried, pillory back.

Racism and sexism are called out. Nothing to do with 'PC', just a reminder that whatever is said has consequences.

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