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‘No better than monkey chants’: Thuram blasted for claiming racism is part of ‘white culture’

‘No better than monkey chants’: Thuram blasted for claiming racism is part of ‘white culture’
French football veteran Lilian Thuram is facing an online backlash after seemingly claiming that white people are inherently racist. Some anti-racism activists accused him of undermining the fight against racism.

Sports newspaper ‘Corriere dello Sport – Stadio’ asked the retired French defender, who is black, whether racist behavior is wired into the “mentality” of Italian football. He responded by saying that the problem is not with the game but “white culture.”

“When we talk about racism, we need to understand that the football world is not racist, but racism is present in Italian, French, European, and – more generally – in white culture,” Thuram said. “The whites have decided they are superior to blacks and can do anything to them.”

“Blacks would never treat whites this way, for whatever reason. History proves this.

The interview took place several days after some fans from Italian club Cagliari made ‘monkey chants’ towards a black footballer, Belgian-born striker Romelu Lukaku, who plays for Inter Milan.

Thuram, in turn, seemed to be the right person to ask about the issue as he frequently campaigned against racism in football and founded an NGO to fight against it.

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Thuram’s comments, however, immediately triggered a backlash on social media. Many argued that his own words were racist to whites. “A racist response to a racist question,” one person wrote on Twitter, as another sarcastically asked if “Thuram believes he is superior to whites.”

The commenters blasted the former player for treating whites “as a unified bloc.” They also pointed out that this is what racists do to black people.

“Too bad Thuram reacts just like the white racists – by putting everyone in the same basket,” one Twitter user noted. “We don’t fight racism with racism,” another wrote, adding that Thuram’s words put him “on the same level with those who shout monkey chants at stadiums.”

The retired footballer also took flak for seemingly suggesting that racist sentiments are somehow endemic to whites and Europe, and not present among blacks. “He still believes that racism is uniquely white-on-black… It’s not the 18th century anymore,” one poster said.

Some people sided with the player. “It’s not racist to see that white people are raised in an environment, where everything conforms their feeling of superiority,” writer and journalist Rokhaya Diallo wrote. “This is not a genetic defect but a consequence of a multi-faceted system designed to their advantage.”

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The French-based anti-bigotry group, the International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA), meanwhile, said that Thuram’s take on racism, defeats his efforts to campaign against it. It is “toxic” to define individuals by the color of their skin because it means falling for “the trap of racism,” the group stated.

The approach, which creates a world with the ‘whites’ on one side and the ‘blacks’ on the other, is not acceptable when one claims to fight racism, as Lilian Thurman wishes to do.

His words may end up having “the effect, opposite to the desired goal,” LICRA said.

A renowned footballer, Thuram played for Juventus and Barcelona, and was a member of the French national team for nearly 15 years. He won the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 European Championship.

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