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Saturday 7 January 2012

Racism - a black and white case?

It's been quite a week for racism in the UK. Here are three examples of what have, perhaps, been the most prominent news stories.


Stephen Lawrence

This 18 year old teenager was brutally murdered in a racist attack while waiting for a bus. This incident happened in 1993. It has taken another 18 years for the British justice system to catch up with, at least some of, the perpetrators. There is absolutely no place for such behaviour in a civilised society. Everyone must be appalled by the actions of his attackers; their jail terms will mean that they are not a threat to society again, or at least not for a very long time. There is absolutely no room for ambiguity in this case.



Luis Suárez

The Liverpool Football Club No. 7 was found guilty by an FA (Football Association) independent regulatory commission of having called another player (Patrice Evra of Manchester United) a 'negro'. The punishment meted out was a £40,000 fine and an eight match suspension.


It seems that the word 'negro' was taken as a disparaging remark. It is worth mentioning that this 'conversation' was taking place between a Uruguayan and a Frenchman, and not necessarily in English.


George Bernard Shaw wrote that "England and America are two countries divided by a common language". He was correct when he wrote that, and is just as accurate today. The US Census of 2010 lists 'negro' as a racial option.


As usual, the news channels rolled out various so-called 'experts' who gave us the benefit of their vast experience in these matters. One suggested that the timing of a declaration by Luis Suárez' employers (Liverpool Football Club) to not appeal against the decision was 'unfortunate'. This pundit was obviously blissfully unaware that LFC had to accept the decision (or not) to get the clock ticking on the suspension; there was a match the same day. During this match, large numbers supporters of the opposing team were chanting 'where's your racist'; no action was taken against them.


My favourite quote on the matter comes from Lord Ouseley, erstwhile chairman of the Commission for Racial equality (1993 to 2000). Referring to the case and the conduct of Luis Suárez, as well as that of LFC, he stated "all we have heard are denials and denigration of Evra". Etymology cannot be Lord Ouseley's strong suit.


The decision by the FA has now set a precedent; one which I believe they will regret. A tariff has been set and will now need to be applied in the inevitably huge number of complaints that will be brought in the future.



Diane Abbott

This labour Member of Parliament (currently shadow minister for public health), born to Jamaican immigrants in London, tweeted "White people love playing 'divide & rule' we should not play their game #tacticasoldascolonialism". Her boss, opposition leader Ed Milliband apparently ordered her to apologise, which she duly did. Diane Abbott is not new to controversy. In 2004 the Committee on Standards and Privileges found that she had failed to declare earnings of £17,300 on the Register of Members' Interests for fees received for television appearances on the BBC. Diane Abbott was required to apologise to the house. In 1996 Diane Abbott stated that "blonde, blue-eyed Finnish girls" were unsuitable as nurses. The reason: they had "never met a black person before". She also made a speech in the United States where she stated that "the British invented racism". Last year Diane Abbott was reported as having referred to the Prime Minister and his deputy as "two posh white boys". The worst which has befallen Diane Abbott is that she has been required to apologise. Could this be referred to as a whitewash? (Sorry, I could not resist that one).


As a result of the controversial Tweet, experts were again brought in to comment. One who was very much defending Diane Abbott from any racist slur that was suggested (after all, what are friends for) stated that she had always been re-elected with increased majorities, at every general election. Apart from the fact that the assertion is incorrect, it could also be shown to prove exactly the opposite point to that sought.

The UK seems to be going through turmoil over racism at the moment. These are a number of high profile news stories that are making the country re-evaluate its attitude towards racial tolerance. It seems to be a case of a multicultural, multiethnic society no longer having a clue of what it really stands for.


In order for things to really change will require a British (or English) ethnicity, consisting of a common heritage, including a common language and a common language; this will take more than one generation.

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