Mario Balotelli is an Italian footballer who may soon become a Liverpool player. He has long been one of my favorite players, and I can’t help but think that the way his reputation in Europe is shaped by race. (Balotelli has been the victim of horrific racist chants throughout his career, but I also think institutional racism shapes media coverage and popular opinion, as pointed out here and elsewhere.)
Balotelli is certainly an unusual footballer: Once, while signing an autograph for a child, Balotelli learned the kid was being bullied, and then drove across town to confront the bully and discuss the matter with the school principal. And he is famed for his generosity, although this is often portrayed popularly as an inability to handle his money well.
He also has a reputation for volatility and immaturity, and is often criticized for getting in fights with teammates. He once threw a dart at a younger player. You hear a lot that Balotelli is crazy and/or lazy. You hear that he stays out late.
Now, I think some of Balotelli’s professional behavior has been poor, and I’m not here to defend it. But look at the way we treat white players:
Liverpool’s Robbie Fowler once PRETENDED TO SNORT THE WHITE POWDER OF THE TOUCH LINE after scoring a goal, in reference to his cocaine use.
Point being, in all the cases above (and many, many, many more) the offenses were seen as youthful indiscretions, or as hilarious examples of Boys being Boys.
Fowler is now a coach; Beagrie is now a well-respected commentator; and Bellamy is still playing. You rarely hear about his on- and off-field indiscretions, even though they’re probably more numerous than Balotelli’s. Meanwhile, Balotelli makes the news (and gets fined $200,000) for eating curry.
Those of you who follow football will begin to hear a lot about Balotelli if he returns to play in England. You will hear about how he cried after being substituted (although you might not hear that he cried because he had to sit on the bench while racist chants rang through the stadium). You will hear about how he is “wild” and “unpredictable” and “lazy.”
But watch him play. Watch how good and smart and creative he can be, how he can find paths to goal that make people call him lazy (they called Messi lazy, too, remember) when really he is just waiting, like the chess master who sees four moves ahead. Watch him off the ball, moving to reshape the opposition’s defense.
And then watch him score, turn around unsmiling, and lift his shirt to ask the immense and complicated question.
"You’ll go far", the dad says to his son. The son, never having heard this expression, imagines traveling across a vague grey landscape, and gaining many shiny things. Years really do pass, and the boy has moved his body around to a lot of places in that time. Finally, he wonders if he is far enough from where he started. He decides no. The boy keeps walking, and eventually breaks his ankle. He sits down on the side of the grey road, and asks, "Have I gone far enough, dad?" His dad has been dead now for 12 years, and the boy knows this, but he asks anyway. There is no response. The boy likes to imagine that the leaf that blew into his face at that moment was some kind of sign.
“My hair makes me happy. I want to grow it down to my knees.”
“What else makes you happy?”
“This sandwich—someone bought it for me. It’s not often I get treated.”
“Why do you feel this way?”
“I was born in 1963, and I’ve had a rough life. My dad drank a lot, and he used to beat my mom. They cheated on each other and finally got divorced. I used to run away a lot. I’d sing all night, and hide from the police. I sang beautiful songs:
As I walk along my way
I see roses and daffodils and say
I love you so,
Please never let me go,
I belong to you my precious love, my precious love
Please come and hold me tight tonight, my love,
My true love…”
She said she’d let me take her photo if I bought some peanuts from her. Afterward, I asked if she could remember the saddest moment of her life. She laughed, and said: “You’re going to need to buy some more peanuts.”
(Kasangulu, Democratic Republic of Congo)
"There is a great phobia about the mind: the Western mind is very queasy when first principles are questioned. Rarer than corpses in this society are the untreated mad, because we can’t come to terms with that. A shaman is someone who swims in the same ocean as the schizophrenic, but the shaman has thousands and thousands of years of sanctioned technique and tradition to draw upon. In a traditional society, if you exhibited “schizophrenic” tendencies, you are immediately drawn out of the pack and put under the care and tutelage of master shamans. You are told: “You are special. Your abilities are very central to the health of our society. You will cure. You will prophesy. You will guide our society in its most fundamental decisions.” Contrast this with what a person exhibiting schizophrenic activity in our society is told. They’re told: “You don’t fit in. You are becoming a problem. You don’t pull your own weight. You are not of equal worth to the rest of us. You are sick. You have to go to the hospital. You have to be locked up.” – You are on a par with prisoners and lost dogs in our society. So that treatment of schizophrenia makes it incurable."
My first day in Brooklyn, 21 years ago, I took the subway from my Brooklyn Heights neighborhood to its terminus at the tip of Coney Island. I walked the ten miles back, slowly weaving my way through a contiguous collection of extraordinary neighborhoods, each remarkably different, some…
From the narrow streets, pottery ovens, and noisy workshops of Fustat, Ibrahim Said was born in 1976. Fustat is an area in Cairo, Egypt that has etched its name in the history of the pottery industry since the Islamic conquest. Ibrahim comes from a family of potters, and his father became his first teacher and the rich cultural heritage of Egypt became his second.
Known for his elegant vases that are included in some prestigious Middle East collections, Ibrahim’s work is inspired by the ancient work of Egyptians- the strong lines and bold shapes- although his signature work embodies a lightness that comes from his silhouettes, small bases, and delicate finials.
His carvings are derived from Islamic jug filter designs, which were both functional and aesthetic. The carved area in the neck of the jug filtered out impurities when water was collected in the Nile. Ibrahim wanted to find a way to bring these ancient carvings back to life while somehow maintaining their history.
He has participated in workshops and demonstrations throughout the Middle East, and has been highly recognized for his technical ability, creativity, and innovation in the field of ceramics.