Tag Archives: racism

Chelsea FC: Fighting Racism in Football

Everyone I’ve spoken to who has had any links to Chelsea Football Club has told me that John Terry is a nasty piece of work – a thoroughly unpleasant man – but nobody goes around wildly accusing England players of racism without evidence and proof.

Now Terry is in court in London defending himself against a racially aggravated public order offence – in short he has to defend himself against calling QPR player Anton Ferdinand ‘a f****** black c***’ during a game last October.

Terry says he is angry, he can’t even believe the accusation, yet lip-readers watching video of the incident almost vouch that these were his words – much of the dispute in court is over the short periods of time when Terry’s mouth is not visible. In court Terry has defended himself by saying that his words were down to confusion – Terry was verifying to Ferdinand (by repeating the words) that he had not just called Ferdinand that – seemingly verifying what the lip-readers have claimed was said.

Terry was being wound up by Ferdinand – but did it warrant a racist response?

Let’s take a look at the vision statement of Chelsea FC:

Chelsea’s vision statement that underpins everything we do is that by 2014 we strive to be recognised internationally as the world’s number one football club.

This applies to all off the field activities, as well as on the field, and therefore applies to fighting racism and discrimination and promoting integration and social inclusion.

Chelsea is committed to providing each employee, potential employee, customer and service users equality of opportunity in all the things we do.  We will ensure that equality practices are integral to every process and create an inclusive and positive environment for all. 

Interesting? Fighting racism underpins all the things we do. Unless you happen to be one of the most visible employees of Chelsea FC… Look further down a few lines in the Chelsea Strategic Overview and you will find this:

Chelsea Football Club practices a zero tolerance policy towards racism at Stamford Bridge and takes a leading role in all the major anti racist campaigns such as Kick Racism Out of Football, Show Racism the Red Card and all UEFA backed Europe wide campaigns.

Terry may yet be declared innocent by the court, but if he is found guilty of a racially aggravated offence in a court of law then will Chelsea ask him to leave the club? Probably not – he might even be championed as an anti-racism ambassador.

A less visible employee of Chelsea FC would have been fired immediately for uttering a similar statement in the office, but players appear to operate using a different set of values.So do all the fine anti-racist sentiments such as ‘kick it out’ and ‘equal opportunities’ in the Chelsea vision statement mean anything?

Not really; they mean nothing at all and may as well be deleted from the club website.

Chelsea v Roma

Photo by Ryu Voelkel licensed under Creative Commons


Downfall on a Croydon tram

You know that an online meme has truly gone viral when someone does a Downfall mashup, and so it is that the recent Emma West ‘racist woman on a tram’ video can now be seen in a new version with Hitler – the source video got past 12m views in a few days before the person who uploaded it decided to delete the video. You can still see it all over YouTube though as other people uploaded copies.

It is an embarrassment to watch. West is clearly drunk, or using something you can’t buy at Boots, and making it all worse, she is carrying a young infant who seems oblivious to the foul language and threat of violence. She has now been remanded in custody to January 3rd by magistrates in Croydon – with the order to keep her behind bars apparently for her own safety.

When you take into account her accusation that someone on the tram comes from Nicaragua, though they are quite obviously not from Central America, it descends into idiocy. Just with the added foul language for good measure.

Most reactions to the video have expressed outrage. The UK is a modern, forward-thinking, liberal society that despises this casual racism. At least, this is the intelligent, educated, liberal reaction.

England is also a country where, just a few days ago, police questioned the captain of the national football team over alleged racial abuse of fellow professional footballers on the pitch.

Emma West doesn’t allow her targets to be limited by race; she appears to despise anyone who isn’t English – particularly the Polish – apparently demonstrating that cultural racism very clearly still exists in the UK.

British people know this anyway. The hard working, mostly Christian, white-skinned Poles have faced a negative reaction from the British as their numbers have increased since EU expansion in 2004. Anyone with a slightly longer memory, or appreciation of British history, would know that there were 16 Polish fighter squadrons within the RAF during World War 2, with squadron 303 at Northolt being the highest-scoring fighter squadron in the RAF. But do the ignorant worry about history?

The Irish faced a similar reaction many decades ago as they came to the UK looking for work. Landlords considered dogs and blacks to be just about as welcome as the Christian, white, Irish workers.

Racism isn’t always about the colour of your skin or the God you worship.

Within the British Isles we have often mocked each other in jokes. The drunken Irish, the stingy Scots and so on, but when a video like this achieves such notoriety in such a short period of time it would appear that something else is going on that exceeds mild stereotypes. That John Terry himself can squirm behind excuses such as ‘the context in which certain remarks were made’ shows how little the establishment really cares about true racial harmony in Britain today. Is ‘tolerance’ still the rather pathetic objective here?

The truth is that without migration the UK would never be able to boast the music of Morrissey or the Beatles. The chicken tikka masala might never have become the favourite dish of the nation – offering solace to all those who can’t manage a vindaloo. And Damien Hirst might never have started chopping up cows in the name of art.

The value migration brings is acknowledged by most, and the most recent explicitly anti-migrant political movement, the British National Party, was roundly defeated in the 2010 general election.

But the white working class fears migrants because of the perception that they steal jobs – it’s that simple. They like Irish beer and Indian (usually it’s actually Bangladeshi) food, but they don’t want foreigners coming and taking their jobs.

And jobs are where the political debate is at right now. Unemployment is soaring. The economies of Europe are collapsing and the OECD predicts that the UK will soon enter a new recession with more than 3m unemployed – that’s at least 400,000 more people without a job than right now.

If the government doesn’t grasp that this lack of employment opportunity is going to be a tinderbox that tests multicultural Britain to the limit then I suggest that ministers get on a tram and start talking to people – admittedly difficult when they are not even talking to each other because of Europe. But, don’t forget to carry a swear box.

Hitler In Hell

Please help the Migrant Tales book project!

The Migrant Tales group on Facebook is starting to get some serious interest. Soon after being set up there are already 120 fans of the book and many ideas starting to flow. But we need more.

I’m starting to contact the editors of various diaspora magazines. You know the free magazines you see scattered around London, mainly outside stations, all focused on a specific migrant community. Where I live in Ealing there are several magazines catering to the local Polish community, nearby in Shepherd’s Bush there are mags for the Kiwi and Aussies.

I need your help to reach out to as many of these diaspora publications as possible. I need to reach their editors to tell them about the book project so they can tell their readers – so we can draw more stories and experiences from these people.

Please get in touch with me if you have a copy of any of these magazines to hand and you can send me the contact email for the title – either leave a comment here on this blog or get in touch with me directly…

Thanks for your help in advance!

You fascists are bound to lose

I spent hours this evening editing a video about the BNP. I hope you like it.

Billy Bragg at ULU

There were six of us sitting around a table in the Rising Sun pub on Tottenham Court road in London last Saturday night, me – and a random bunch of mates – collected together to see the Billy Bragg ‘Hope not Hate’ fundraising gig at ULU. An Irish Brit, a couple of Italian Brazilians, a Chinese South African, and an Asian Brit – an appropriate mix of friends for a gig focused on racism and the threat that the British National Party will extend their slimy tentacles further into local government at the next election.

Billy was in good form. Opening with some old-school ‘Lovers town revisited’ and straight into some socialism of the heart with ‘Upfield’. He then gave one of his familiar riffs on socialism, but focused on trying to keep all shades of the left onside with the anti-BNP message: “It’s going to be a fight that’s takes place mostly in East London. Those of you who have been doing this since the twentieth century know that there is not just one shade of socialism. It’s the same with nationalism. There are many different types of nationalism, and there are many different types of patriotism.”

Billy gave a passionate tribute to the former Labour party leader Michael Foot: “He was a great orator and a great anti-fascist. He reminded us constantly of our tradition. What must we do when we lose people like Michael Foot? We ourselves must renew the tradition…” As the crowd cheered he blasted into a raucous version of the digger’s anthem ‘World turned upside down’.

This being an anti-BNP fundraiser for Hope not Hate, most of Billy’s riffs between songs were focused on racism and the fascist nature of the BNP. He implored the audience to help take the fight to Barking and Dagenham, where the BNP are directing their electoral guns: “I want us to plug into the great anti-fascist tradition that lives on in this country, which we need to wake up and to take to Barking and Dagenham, but we need to push on past the fascists and to deal with the bankers and capitalists in the same sweep, to change this country and the priorities of this country away from the free market and back to individual freedom… It’s a big task, but all of us working together, we can beat the fascists and if we can beat them in Barking and Dagenham then we can beat them anywhere!” Naturally, Billy showcased his new song ‘Last flight to Abu Dhabi’, an anthem against the bankers who caused the global financial collapse featuring the line: “Jonty was a banker, he made a lot of cash, betting on derivatives, he helped to cause the crash…”

Billy was focused on a single issue for this gig and so the emphasis shifted somewhat from his regular gigs – though he always talks about his inspiration at the ‘rock against racism’ Clash gig in 1978, and he was playing his Joe Strummer Telecaster all evening. At this gig he urged the audience to make this concert their own rock against racism experience.

The one faint criticism (from my part) is that Billy included several songs from the ‘England, Half English’ album into this set. This was an album of songs focused on identity so it was only natural for him to include a few at a gig focused on racism, but it’s probably his weakest album. I know he rarely plays these songs at regular gigs, and I had this conversation with a ‘Hope not Hate’ T-shirt vendor, but the T-shirt man convinced me that the aim of the gig made it all worthwhile anyway. And with gems like ‘Milkman’ and ‘Between the wars’ included in this set, I think he was probably right.

Originally posted to the Say no to the BNP blog.

BNP Leader, Nick Griffin, on Question Time

So it finally happened. Griffin faced the BBC audience.

David Dimbleby was well briefed and quoted several of Griffin’s more outrageous remarks at him. The panel raged and gave their all. But somehow at the end of it all I felt disappointed.

I was keen to see Griffin on Question Time. I felt that the only way to show how odious he really is, would be to get him up there on the BBC and to repeat back some of his own lines. Yet, when it actually happened it looked like gang of bullies beating a feckless child. He responded to every claim; he repeated untruths and half-truths.

But at the end of the day, although the panel was right to attack him, it just looked like a bunch of liberal bullies beating up on the racist.

I don’t personally feel any sympathy for Griffin because of this. He deserved every verbal attack the panel gave him, but it demonstrated the fatal flaw of the mainstream parties. Every mainstream party representative argued on racism as a moral issue. It’s just not right to be racist. Griffin argued his own racist views on practical issues such as jobs, housing, and benefits – and his concept of ‘indigenous’ rights.

There are a huge number of myths perpetrated about the number of migrants to the UK that actually “steal jobs” or “go top of the list for housing”, but if Griffin continues to perpetuate the image that he is the only one prepared to do something about it, and the other parties just stutter on about how racism is nasty and wrong, then he will pick up support. The mainsteam parties need to offer better information, not just indignation.

I think the net result of Question Time was that the people who always hated the BNP, hate them just as much as before. Those who were undecided, unsure, or just don’t really trust or engage with politicians – they probably like Griffin a lot more after seeing the mainstream parties attack him on BBC1 tonight.