The slave trade was abolished in 1807. Viv Anderson became the first black footballer to play for England in 1978. In this Olympic year, our three big gold medals hopes – Mo Farah, Philips Idowu and Jessica Ennis – are all from ethnic minorities. These are just three, among a whole host of others, reasons why it staggers, and saddens, me that the question of race still pops up in the media on a regular basis.
Leaving sporting examples for a moment – Luis Suarez and John Terry, you can have a breather – recently there has been a flux of media reports that has racism under the microscope. The Stephen Lawrence verdict, and Diane Abbott’s Twitter gaffe has given us more unwanted reasons to have to address the issue of race.
It’s fair to say that these two first and foremost should not be categorised together – but it is a sign and a shame that they are, just because they mention race. One is about a murder of an innocent and promising man, which exposed police failings and institutionalised racism in the force. The other is an out-of-context 140 character statement from an MP to one of her followers. They are hardly in the same basket.
The real shame is that we still have to talk about it. Do I think this country is racist? Absolutely not. Do I think there are morons who judge people purely on the colour of their skin? Certainly.
To analyse the Lawrence verdict is far too complex in terms of how race was involved, but it is definitely worth remembering that this happened in 1993 – and the problem with racism has moved on a great deal. It would be appalling if it hadn’t in 20 years, so it is good to see that progress has been made in this country.
“The whites have become black” was the statement from one-time decent presenter David Starkey in the aftermath of the riots last summer. I’ve seen this compared to what Diane Abbott put on her Twitter this week. How these two are in any way similar I have no idea, but there’s clear distinctions. For those unfamiliar with it, Diane Abbott MP tweeted “White people love playing divide & rule”. I highly recommend before you have an opinion on the issue, read the full conversation. It has clearly been taken out of context, and in context it is obvious that Abbott was not addressing white people in general, but those who address black communities as an entire group, with no individuals.
Not only is it a severe reminder that MPs need to be aware of firstly the twitter character limit, but careful of how they use language. The difference between Abbott and Starkey is that the latter used being black as a derogatory term, and implies that it was only ethnic minorities responsible for the rioting last summer.
It angers me, upsets me, makes me despair that there are those who still judge on the colour of the skin. I found a sickening Facebook page run by the EDL about Stephen Lawrence. The nasty head of racism still rears its head, but as a country we are better than that.
If those that want to be racist still harbour 19th century attitudes, fine. But you should have to live a 19th century lifestyle. Women, you can’t have a job, or the vote, and a sub-standard education. Men, most of you can’t vote, 80% of you will be working class, and if you have TB you’ll be buried alive.
By Andrew Butler