"[West Australian] teen tennis star Brydan Klein has been fined the maximum possible amount by the ATP for racially abusing a South African opponent during a tournament in the UK.
Klein was suspended by the Australian Institute of Sport after he was accused of calling Raven Klaasen a "f***ing kaffir" during the clash at a tournament in Eastbourne.
And despite issuing a public apology, the ATP handed down a $14,000 fine to Klein, saying further penalties could arise out of a full investigation. In a statement, Klein said he deeply regretted his actions.
This is an interesting exercise in onomastics (the study of names) for me. From the Dutch surname and brown skin, Klaasen is presumably what was once called a "Cape Coloured" (person of mixed race) and the epithet would have been very wounding to him -- as Cape Coloureds always hated being lumped in with the "Bantu" (an official term for wholly native Africans).
But the most interesting thing is where Klein got the term from. It is normally used in Africa only. Western Australia does have a large number of white refugees from South Africa so that may be it. A more remote possibility centres on the fact that "Klein" is often a Jewish surname and South Africa's once-large Jewish population has been moving out of what they rightly perceive as a dangerous place for a long time now. So maybe Klein's parents were South African Jews and he learnt the term from them. There seems to be nothing on the net to say where they come from. On the other hand, Klein does not look at all Jewish. But a "Jewish" look is far from universal among Jews so that tells us nothing.
Onomastics aside, the interesting thing is that Klein clearly thought of Klaasen as a "Kaffir" and it came out in a heated moment. You can suppress speech but you cannot suppress thought. I would think that it is surely best to have thoughts out in the open. Speech is often a poor predictor of behaviour but if thoughts were allowed to be freely expressed it might not be.
The term "Kaffir" is not always derogatory. British parliamentary enquiries into the welfare of the South African native blacks in the 19th century used that term for them (although spelled "Caffre") even though the whole purpose of the enquiry was broadly sympathetic to them. In Apartheid-era South Africa it was often used simply as a racial classifier, though it did also tend to imply a judgment of racial inferiority. It is very risky for a white to use the term at all in South Africa today, of course, though some of the older generation still do. I said a bit more about "Kaffir" on April 23.
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