Racism has many manifestations.
It can be straightforward and undisguised. Such as a man kneeling on the neck of hi
as fellow man for nine and a half minutes, ignoring his victim's weak protests that he “can't breathe”, and leaving him only when he lay still.
And then, having the audacity to claim that the victim died because he had 'drugs' in his body.
And doing all this because of a mere ALLEGATION that the victim had proffered a fake 20-dollar bill in payment for a purchase in a store.
But there are subtler forms of racism. Like what happened to yours truly on an internal flight aboard an over-crowded American plane somewhere in the US hinterland.
Yours truly had finished the sparse “refreshment” offered to him on a tray by the Airline and wanted to go to the place of convenience.
But sitting next to him was a huge man. There was no way of managing to stow his tray somewhere and being able to manoeuvre his way past this huge fellow and – the one sitting next to him!
Fortunately (he thought) an air hostess came walking by, passing along the aisle. So he signalled to her and she stopped by his seat. He lifted the tray past the huge man and directed it towards the air hostess.
To his surprise, she didn't take it from him but as he “left” it where he expected her hands to be, she let the tray drop to the cabin floor!
Yikes! At the best of times, yours truly detests being the centre of attraction. But here he was now – he (he realised) would be presumed by nearby passengers to have dropped his tray on the cabin floor! Or something!
Yours truly was so embarrassed to be the cynosure of all the passengers sitting nearby that he wished he could drop into the clouds beneath the aeroplane, and vanish from this earth.
He called out in protest – to the air hostess. She didn't mind him but just walked away. But after a few minutes (whilst all eyes were – he thought – fixed on him) another air hostess came to his seat. She said she was the cabin supervisor, and what was the problem? Apparently, the air hostess had gone to report him to the supervisor!
He patiently explained what had happened. But instead of apologising or offering any sympathy, the supervisor merely said, “The girls sometimes get weary on flights, you know!”
What? This was happening to me in the U.S. of A? The home of a capitalism one of whose basic tenets was that “the customer is always right”? Reality check, what?
What to do? Yours truly withdrew into his shell and never said a word to anyone. The supervisor suggested that he might want to file a written complaint, but where was the time? He was catching another flight, with very little time in-between landing and take-off. This was going to be an airport in a city in which he knew no-one. Nothing to do but swallow and let the matter go.
Then, the thought struck him: “Was that how the Airline's air-hostesses treated ALL its passengers? Or was it because he was – he was – black?”
The idea made him want to puke. Up to today, yours truly doesn't know what the true answer was. The incident just left him with a feeling of total misery.
That type of confusion, nay, prevarication, often arises in connection with issues affecting racism. Somehow, there is always a fine balance between sheer callousness on the part of the racist and a deliberate act of racial discrimination. Was one being over-sensitive? Over-reacting? Certainly, one was 'over-annoyed'! And that leaves a horrible feeling of guilt. Should one ever allow oneself to be upset if one values self-discipline?
These ruminations about racism arose out of my analysis of why England lost the Euro-Cup final of 2021 at Wembley, England, on 11th July 2021. It seemed to me that the prevalence of racism in England, generally, had something to do with the defeat.
Look at it this way: the team, as diverse (racially) as you like, had done extremely well and reached the Euro cup final, without losing a single match. Its star performer had been a young black man – Raheem Sterling of Manchester City. He had received high commendation from the British media, which seemed as if it had turned the page on him.
Yes – there had, earlier, been a bitter dispute between him and sections of the media. He called them out for rubbishing his purchase of a house for his mum, while greeting with approbation, a similar purchase by a white young footballer. He accused the media of carrying stories about how black players “splashed” their money about, while giving a free pass to their white counterparts.
So good were relations between Sterling and the media that on the day of the final, BBC Radio 4 had devoted an edition of its prestigious programme, “Profile”, to him.
(Profile, it is fair to acknowledge, had also featured Marcus Rashford, another famous black player, a few weeks earlier. Certainly, the BBC was not a member of the “bash-black-players brigade!”)
However, the question that the black British community could not help asking was this: were the performances of black players in the tournament being “hyped”? Surely, that would be followed by 'slaughter' if things changed and England lost in the final? Wouldn't the syndrome of erecting pedestals only to demolish them at the first opportune moment operate against the black players, as usual?
Hmmm! The England manager, Gareth Southgate, didn't seem to be worried about his relationship with his black players. But he inexplicably left three black stars, including Marcus Rashford, out of the team.
Then came the penalty shoot-out that followed the 1-1 draw at the end of extra time. Southgate included Rashford and two other blacks who had been used as substitutes in the match, in the line-up of penalty-takers.
It would be interesting to have a psychological diagnosis of the situation in the minds of Rashford and the two other black players who took part in the penalty shoot-out, and each of whom failed to score. Did the England Manager Southgate make a genuine, tactical error? Did he fully appreciate what could be happening in the minds of the black players?
Whether consciously or sub-consciously, each of the black players would have been seeking answers to several questions seeking answers in his mind: (1) Am I going set to be a scapegoat if I fail to score and we lose? (2)If I do score, would it be fair? Why was I thought not good enough to play in the match itself, but was selected to take part in the nerve-wracking penalty shoot-out?
Now, taking penalties is always a dreaded experience. To do so, when one's mind is in turmoil asking all sorts of contentious questions, is fatal. No wonder Italy, whose players had no identity issues o worry about, outscored England. 3-2 after extra time. The team with the best psychological make-up, won.
In case you think I've been taking you on a journey of fanciful speculation, let me take you to a source that does not usually exhibit sympathy towards black British players: the Sun newspaper. Read between the lines of its report, published on12 July 2021:
“[British Prime Minister]
Boris Johnson condemns sickening racist abuse of England stars ... as police vow to investigate....
“BORIS Johnson has hit out at racists who attacked England players, after their Euro 2020 defeat. The PM has joined the FA and Met Police in slamming vile trolls, for their abuse.
“Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho all missed from the spot as Gareth Southgate's men fell agonisingly short of Euros glory. And the trio were all targeted on social media after their penalty misses. [Emphasis added]. Sick morons left vile messages and sent monkey emojis to the young players.”
Among the worst of the trolls' online postings was one that said: “F---- n---- missed every ffff---- penalty. … Slaves.” Etc. Etc.
Does a country that harbours people with such an attitude – who can greet even the valiant efforts of black footballers with this type of language – deserve to become champions of their region?
Call it karmaor what you like, but events – like the match under review – have a way of always seeming to yield the answer!