Ashley Cole, South African Miners and the Power of Texts and Tweets

While we focus on the Ashley Cole tweets and whether he should be banned against San Marino on Friday, whether the content of his tweet is as serious as Rio Ferdinand’s retweet of “choc  ice”, in South Africa 12,000 striking miners have just been sacked by text message.

In August 34 miners, were massacred by the police at Lonmin mine.

These men who earn less in a year than Cole earns in a week have been fired after three weeks of strikes over pay and conditions. The company which sacked them is a subsidiary of London-based Anglo American.


Workers have been dying in the demonstrations and strikes have spread to other industries including gold, iron ore and Shell has had to curtail fuel deliveries after its drivers struck for 2 weeks. While we (rightly) focus on an individual tweet posted in anger, 12,000 texts are fired at a great mass of invisible and underprivileged working men who could really do with our support.

Is it not extraordinary how when racial abuse, discrimination and exploitation is focused on an individual we feel involved, interested. Yet when a large group are involved, when people die in another country, sometimes we can carelessly turn the page of the offending newspaper and move on.

This is not to say that racism in football and the issues around Terry, Cole, Suarez, and many others are not important, they are because they speak about who we are as a society and what we are prepared to tolerate. I just marvel that without the focus on an individual it seems much harder to care, to be interested.

Perhaps the beauty and strength of our system is that we do take the time to look at the detail rather than let it pass. Perhaps it is the attention at the micro- level, our willingness to clarify if Cole heard the word “black”, if the word “cunt” was used that is our strength.

To change on an individual level it is essential to look at the detail, to understand how our thoughts, our ways of talking to ourselves form our experience of the world. It seems that the same is true on a larger scale whether the FA or in society as a whole. Thus I welcome the attention being paid to Cole at al. This sends out a message to all those harbouring racism thoughts and ideas that it is not OK.

I just wish we could send them all a text saying “we know who you are, it’s time to give this up!” I wish we could all send a text to Anglo American saying “we know what you are up to, it is time to stop”.

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