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?

Simon Woolley

Archived Comments

We've changed to a new commenting system - comments below are preserved for archive purposes

Unconscious raising

Absolutely spot-on Simon.. So how do you bring this unconscious discrimination into the conscious?

unconscious raising?

It's difficult Peter, really difficult. Bashing the unconscious racism over the head clearly doesn't work. Evidence based data that illustrates systemic racial bias is one way. During the BBC radio five live programme I spoke about the subtle indoctrination that was illuminated by a 1950's study which took a group of 5year old black girls and gave them a white and black dolls. They were asked which the good doll and which is the bad doll. All the girls chose the white for good and Black for bad. The presenter quickly jumped in and said, 'well that was more than 50 years ago', 'Yes', I responded, 'but they did the same experiment 5 years ago and almost exactly the same result occurred.'

Once you can show it and then acknowledge it you can then bring about proactive solutions such as Black history month, every month to readdress the imbalance.

What's your view, Peter?


Very Subtle And Well Heeled Racists.

Let's not forget the well heeled and deceptively subtle ones. When the mayor of a multi-racial world class city is linked with the word piccaninny, water melon smiles for Black Africans, and nappy heads, and ends up winning the election for mayor twice; something really reeks in society.

That bad stench also goes all the way up the chain of command in the House of Commons that has gone into reverse and eliminated all minority ethnic citizens from within the government of a multi racial country's Cabinet; a Cabinet that does not reflect Team GB; a collective group of decent citizens of different racial backgrounds, that together, did the United Kingdom proud and gave this country a great deal of respect around the world. These group of honourable people showed the whole world what present day United Kingdom is all about.

Pity the present decision makers in government are all very backward in their thinking.

Believe me, the modern day racist knows what he is doing and the very heeled ones are very much in control. Sometimes it feels like something out of The Omen.

Ps: Has any one heard of the BNP and Nick Griffin lately? Oh! I have forgotten, the government has nicked all their policies and legalized them.

Well heeled "unconsciously racists, Judges' facial expressions

There are also the "unconsciously" racists who probably won't put their "unconscious" thoughts into words, but their facial expressions and body language are evidence of their "unconciously racist" thoughts - the way they look at you, the facial expressions on their face when you speak to them and their uncomfortable body language give clear indication of their dismissive attitude toward you. I am afraid many of our judges fall into this category.