According to Swiss Olympic soccer player Michel Morganella South Koreans are “bunch of mongoloids” who “can go burn” (http://finance.yahoo.com/news/swiss-olympic-team-expels-player-racist-tweet-172924516–finance.html).
I’m not sure whether Morganella meant the South Korean players who beat his team, or South Koreans in general.
While Morganella issued an apology for his tweet after he got kicked out of the Games, the Swiss Olympic team chief Gian Gilli tried to defend the player, claiming that Morganella had been “‘provoked’ by comments sent to his Twitter account after the match.” I see.
Morganella’s exit from the Games comes on the triple-jumping heels of Voula Papachristou’s expulsion from the Greek Olympic team. In this case, Papachristou was no sore loser. Rather, she was just tweeting: “With so many Africans in Greece… At least the West Nile mosquitoes will eat home made food!!!” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/25/voula-papachristou-greek-olympic-racist-tweet_n_1701410.html)
I find these athletes’ standard fare apologies say a lot about their inability to really understand what they did. Here is Papachristou’s mea culpa in full:
I would like to express my heartfelt apologies for the unfortunate and tasteless joke I published on my personal Twitter account. I am very sorry and ashamed for the negative responses I triggered, since I never wanted to offend anyone, or to encroach human rights.
My dream is connected to the Olympic Games and I could not possibly participate if I did not respect their values. Therefore, I could never believe in discrimination between human beings and races.
I would like to apologize to all my friends and fellow athletes, who I may have insulted or shamed, the National Team, as well as the people and companies who support my athletic career. Finally, I would like to apologize to my coach and my family.
“I could not possibly participate if I did not respect [Olympic] values” and “I could never believe in discrimination” are textbook examples of the “what I am versus what I said” misdirection Jay Smooth talks about in “How To Tell People They Sound Racist” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0Ti-gkJiXc&feature=player_embedded).
What I’d really like to hear one of these days in one of these apologies is some genuine introspection about how the racist thing that was said is a reflection of who the speaker is. I’m not saying that racist words make you a racist. I’m saying that racist words come from somewhere, and the choice to unleash them, whether under duress or thoughtlessly reveals something about our consciousness, our worldview and the beliefs we may hold despite our best attempts to convince ourselves otherwise. And when we can own that, then we have a shot at reconciling what we say with who we want to be.