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Jamie Vardy is the Premier League's top scorer, but don't forget he's racist

Why I can't celebrate his accomplishments.

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Jamie Vardy's streak of scoring in consecutive games ended this past weekend. He's the first player to score in 11 consecutive games since the 1992 rebrand of the Premier League. He tallied 13 goals in that span, breaking Ruud Van Nistlerooy's record.

Vardy's rags-to-riches story is fantastic. From working in a factory and playing in amateur leagues a few years ago to taking Leicester City to the top of the Premier League this year, his is a rise that had to have been seen to be believed. Every time he's in on goal, it seems impossible for him to miss. And he deserves the fame, accolades and praise that comes with it; it takes a special brand of quality, defiance and perseverance to accomplish what he has. Even now, it still seems unreal.

Yet, when he broke the record, I sat at home wishing that he didn't.

On July 26, Vardy was in a casino playing poker when he noticed an Asian man behind him. Agitated by the prospect of the man looking at his cards, Vardy said to him: "Jap. Yo, Jap. Walk on. Walk on. Oi, walk on. Yeah you, Jap. Walk on." Later that night, he would have to be held back by a teammate from trying to fight another customer.

While the world celebrates his achievements, as they should, it's impossible for anyone who knows the impact of racism to do so and be comfortable with it. He abused and dehumanized someone. That fact is unavoidable for those familiar with the impact of such action.

In the early hours of the Nov. 13, I was in the back of an Uber on the way to Leytonstone in London. I was speaking to my driver, a Muslim man, asking him banal questions about the gig. He was a family man, so the ability to make his own hours and extra money on the side of his regular job was much welcome. He had been driving for less than five months but he enjoyed it.

"Who's the worst customer that you've ever had?" I asked finally. He glanced at the rear-view mirror, took a deep breath and said: "I've had a lot of drunks, especially on nights like this but as long as they're not throwing up in the car, I can handle it. I've had a lot of rowdy people but I don't really think I've had bad customers."

He was rated a perfect five stars on the app.

I turned my attention to the streets around us. The small one-car lanes that force drivers to practically park by the sides in order to let other cars through. The danger that poses to cyclists. How beautiful the city really looks in the darkness and how the environment shimmers in the ever-present dew. Everything, as far as you can see, glows.

"It’s the racists that I can't deal with."

I met his eyes in the rear-view mirror again. He said that even a small comment that passengers think is harmless, "like when they talk to me and say that they're happy that I'm not like the others," still hurts, makes him question his worth. I add that racism disabuses you of the delusion of equality, that delusion needed for self-actualization. You have to believe you deserve to exist, that you matter as much as any other human being, in order to believe you can achieve your full potential. Racism reminds you that some people believe you to be more animal than person; faceless, violent, undeveloped biologically and undeserving of even basic kindness.

We spoke at length and he closed by saying that some days it gets so bad that after dealing with a racist customer, he just goes home and abandons the job for the day. "It doesn't get easier to deal with, you just have to take the time to recover." He arrived at my destination. We exchanged goodbyes and he thanked me for the conversation.

The chance to release his frustration and explain his pain seemed to have made him happy, if only for that moment. Our exchange briefly broke the silence that shrouds most victims. In the rare case that abuse even comes to light, the noise surrounding stories is usually centered around the celebrity perpetrator. The afflicted are left alone with their shame.

When Vardy's story first surfaced, he offered this apology through Leicester City.

"I wholeheartedly apologise for any offence I've caused. It was a regrettable error in judgment I take full responsibility for and I accept my behaviour was not up to what's expected of me."

Racism isn't a mistake, it's a held belief. And rather than hold that belief silently, Vardy imposed himself upon a voiceless victim and revealed his true personality. There, in the confines of the casino, unaware of the cameras that were watching him and the media spectacle to come, he dehumanized a man. With a few words, he brought the man public shame and stripped him of his personhood. That was the measure of Vardy's integrity.

No apology can change that.

Yet, Vardy could very well be a remarkable and kind person. Humans are multi-dimensional and because a person is a villain in one story doesn't necessarily dismiss the possibility of them being the hero in another. We would not be much better than Vardy, who diminished a human being as worthless, if we were to use one incident to hard-line him as a one-dimensional racist. That would be moving him from one pigeonhole to another.

As fans, we wrestle with the hypocrisy of taking the "moral high ground" when it comes to heroes in a way that we don't when it comes to those in other walks of life. Terrible people exist in society. They work as doctors, teachers, retail associates, footballers and so on. Football is a microcosm of the real world and thus we can't pretend that it should or will be a beacon of morality. It's impossible. We should strive for the best while not being lost in naive idealism of a perfect world.

Vardy's been punished -- fined and forced to take diversity awareness lessons -- and he's apologized. For those who can't divorce the man from his actions, the best you can do is hope that he understands the pain that he's caused, learns and becomes a better person. Or that he keeps fucking up off the pitch and is ultimately released.

How awful must it be to have your life dismissed as irrelevant all because Jamie Vardy scores goals?

Football fans will celebrate Vardy's achievements and relegate the victim to a footnote in his "controversy." Those who'd question whether you can separate a man from his accomplishment inherently suggest that we, as fans, desperately need to be able to, lest we feel guilty for enjoying his work. That debate dismisses the victim as someone who only exists relative to his perpetrator.

Imagine the pain of being stripped of your emotions, your ambitions, your essence of being in the blink of an eye. How awful must it be to have your life dismissed as irrelevant all because Jamie Vardy scores goals in a sport that has no intrinsic value? Compound that suffering when you realize that no one would care about your suffering if it hadn't been at the hands of Jamie Vardy.

He tells you that you don't matter and the world reaffirms that belief.

I watched Vardy break the record and I wished he hadn't. But even the man that he took the record from had his own issues and history has all but forgotten them. And this is the aggravating truth. Their celebrity will overshadow these ills and the watching world will willingly participate in the erasure. This is not a call to demonize them completely for the abuse, rather it's an acknowledgment that even confronting their dichotomy seems like drawing blood from stone. Considering the victim's pain in all this is even more impossible.