John Barnes: ‘John Terry, like most of society is unconsciously racist’
Live on national radio former England and Liverpool football star John Barnes told late night listeners on the popular radio 5 Steve Nolan programme, that Chelsea Captain John Terry could in part be excused for his racist rant at Anton Ferdinand because British society is ‘unconsciously racist’.
To illustrate his point Barnes said:
In this society when tens of thousands of Black people die, there is not the same collective outrage if hundreds of white people were killed.
He went on:
in football, if a man in a turban came along with all the football credentials to manage Liverpool, people would be deeply suspicious. If however it was a white German, no problem.
I was a guest on the same programme as John Barnes and found him in a thoughtful mood. This was a man who over many years had seen the worst of racism in football both on and off the field. Barnes had painfully come to the conclusion that racism in Britain is so endemic that those who spew racist abuse or who have deep prejudices against Black people often don’t even realise what they are doing.
The presenter Steve Nolan was almost bursting with indignation at Barnes's view of white society. ‘Are you actually saying we’re all racist John? Inquired Nolan.
Asked what I thought of Barnes's comments, I told the presenter that I essentially agreed with his thesis, that:
We live in a society that does not see the privileged status that white people have over all Black communities. And all too often, Black is seen in the negative and white in the positive. This premise is played out in so many aspects of our lives, from racist abuse to a Black job candidate not even being considered for a post because of his name and or the colour of his skin.
Where I disagreed with John Barnes's assertion that:
we are less responsible for what we say because of the subtle indoctrination that we have all had.
I have constantly argued that despite centuries of indoctrination that says ‘white is good, black is bad’, we have enough knowledge to challenge our prejudices. Much like our long history has sought to denigrate women or those from the Jewish race, we know anti-Semitism is profoundly wrong as is misogyny.
Therefore, if in a heated moment a man called a female colleague ‘ You fu...whore cu...t’, you’d be right to question what that person really thinks about women. If another person called someone Jewish, ‘ You, dirty fu...Jew’, you would again question what they really thought about Jewish people. Why then does John Barnes and others question what John Terry was thinking when he called Anton Ferdinand a Fu. ..Black cu..t, fu..knobhead? Surely its pretty obvious.
Lastly the Football Association must be applauded for not capitulating under the media pressure that this was a ‘John Terry witch hunt’. And to the numerous apologists for John Terry they need to ask themselves would they call Black colleague those words, ever?