Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Not so subtle racism

I'm not particularly y interested in sport so usually regard the sorts pages of the newspaper to be disposable tissue.  Hover, an incident involving a Raheem Sterling hit the main news pages yesterday.  Sterling is a footballer of Jamaican origin who plays for both Manchester City and England*.  In a match against Chelsea last week he was  subjected to racist  invective by a (presumably) Chelsea supporter.

Sterling has responded by accusing our media of helping to sustain the conditions which keep racism alive.  He cites two stories regarding two young footballers, one black and one white, who had both bought houses for their mothers.

Regarding a young black player, Tosin Adarabioyo, The MailOn-line reported:

Young Manchester City footballer, 20, on £25 000 a week splashes out  on mansion on market for £2.5m  despite never having started a Premier League match.

Regarding  a young white player, Phil Foden, the report (which may or may not not have been from the Mail stable -it doesn't say - was the much less judgemental, indeed favourable:

Foden buys £2m home for his mum.

There are of course many other instances of this "hint-hint, nudge-nudge"  style of reporting.  If criminals are from a Muslim background we are usually told so, yet rarely are indigenous criminals defined as Christians, or even  C of E.  Before the 2015 election great play was made of Ed Miliband's inelegant eating of a bacon sandwich (nudge-nudge; he's Jewish and shouldn't be eating bacon) and that his Dad was a Marxist.

And although it's nationalist rather than racist, before the 2010 election the Mail made a great fuss of the fact that Nick Clegg's great-grandmother was Russian  (and possible a spy and even double-agent.)  And, shock horror, his wife was (and is) Spanish.

The climate that legitimises  racism and nationalism was undoubtedly softened duning the Referendum campaign.  Nigel Farage shamelessly stood by UKIP's poster depicting a seemingly endless but entirely fictitious,  queue of foreigners coming into Britain.  The Leave campaign quite openly (but untruthfully) spoke of millions of Turks standing at the door.

Sadly our prime minister, she of the "Go home" display lorries sent to tour areas of high immigration, and creator of the "hostile environment," for immigrants, is in no position to combat this evil.  Nor are the chief Brexititeers.  It may not have been the dominating factor, but it was certainly a significant factor that many Leave voters saw "take back control" as closing our borders to foreigners. Even sending them "home."

And the peak in racist crimes after the Referendum result was announced, tends to confirm this.

 Last night some punning whiz-kid in the BBC sent a team to Deal, the coastal town in Kent,  to see what the people there made of Mrs May's deal.  One interviewee was blunt;  "We've got to go ahead to keep out the foreigners."

I hope he won't need  treatment on the NHS any time soon..

Closer to home  Chapeltown, a district  of Leeds, an area I know well becasue that's where the church is where I sing in the choir, and until recently, gave ESOL lessons,  has a young football team comprising  largely of  black players and youngsters from Eastern Europe.  They have been subjected to racial abuse, not so much by the players of the opposing sides as by their parents on the touchline.

We are living in a society which is becoming increasingly sick, and the media are at least in part responsible.  Racial innuendo sells papers.

*  This surprises me.  I had supposed that to play for England you had to be born here. Certainly within living memory to play cricket for Yorkshire you had to be born in the county.  Sterling was five years old when he arrived here.


  1. John Barnes the former Liberpool and England footballer has written a very sensible article on the subject: https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2018/dec/12/racist-football-silenced-stadiums-john-barnes

    The truth is that the racism he experienced never went away, but it was pushed underground. Here is a quotation from his final paragraph:

    "Every day, without a racist word being spoken, people are suffering from racial discrimination. I talk about invisible banana skins: the quiet denial of opportunity and equality. But because it’s invisible nobody is concerned, and because they’re not celebrities nobody is interested."

    1. The John Barnes article is very thoughtful and well worth a read. Thanks for pointing it out.

      I agree that we all have a potentially racialist streak, along with a selfish streak, potential for physical violence and other unacceptable instincts.

      When I worked in Papua New Guinea among Australians, New Zealanders, Americans, Chinese, other Asians and English as well as Papua New Guineans a friend pointed out to me that my closest friends would be English. When I thought about it she was quite right. Not only that, the very closest including her, were from the North of England (although she was from Lancashire).

      Civilisation is learning to control and contain unacceptable instincts, including racism.


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