Yesterday, the famed Italian striker Mario Balotelli’d all over the internet, sharing a meme that was supposed to be anti-racism but was itself pretty racist. At best, it was a momentary lapse in judgement; at worst, a display of a general stupidity that’s plagued him throughout his career.
The post was poorly thought out, but it’s hard to imagine Mario intended to hurt anyone. This is a man whose racial, cultural and national identity are constant clouds hovering over his public life. He’s been saddened enough by matters of race to openly weep and angry enough to threaten violence against his attackers; then again, maybe all that is just a list of excuses or hollow justifications.
Maybe I just don’t want to believe Mario Balotelli has hate in his heart for Mexican or Jewish people. The more likely cause of this mistake is a bad sense of humor and an even worse gauge of public sentiment. His initial Twitter response to the backlash definitely makes me believe the latter.
Balotelli probably isn’t a racist. He’s a well-intentioned dummy that can’t get out of his own way. So many of his words and actions make it seem like there’s a common sense or perception filter missing between his heart and his mouth; or, in this case, his fingers.
Of course, none of that justifies him sharing the meme in the first place. None of the justifiably offended parties are trying to hear, “Ahhh, that’s just Mario, he’s a goofball,” but that’s what makes racism such complex subject. Sometimes the offender really just doesn’t get it, but that ignorance does nothing for the people who feel they’ve been targeted.