Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Terry verdict makes racist jibes cool

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The Independent Online

I've been trying to avoid the cloudburst, the torrent of questions and comments following the John Terry case. Broadcasters, here and abroad, wanted my reactions, so did readers. What did I think of the case? What of racism in football? And racism in Britain generally? Was Anton Ferdinand a fool for taking things so far? Did I admire Ashley Cole for standing by Terry? Why do we blacks have such a chip on the shoulder? They should sack all black footballers, nothing but trouble.

Rarely one to opt for silence when such events occur, I did this time. Nobody was listening in the commotion and din of last week, as deafening as football matches. Introversion and reflection seemed wiser then. The man I love more than chocolate responded differently to the verdict than me. That threw me too. His views on race come out of a lifetime of activism, yet on this we weren't completely on the same side. I was disheartened at the acquittal and, though my husband is no defender of Terry's foul mouth, he was more upbeat. The trial, he said, showed how seriously Britons take racism and think it wrong. It mattered. Furthermore, English fans and players were genuinely shocked by the brute bigotry in Ukraine during Euro 2012.

Hmm, OK, dearest. So, we aren't as bad as Ukraine or Russia. (Maybe we should also admire ourselves for not being as sexist as Saudi Arabia?) Ferdinand, his brother Rio, and other black footballers will not find comfort in any of that. Nor can I.

The match, case and judgment revealed the fault lines and contradictions in our nation – fragmented and disjointed, more enlightened than it was right up to the end of the 20th century and begrudging that enlightenment, not as free of racism as it insists it is and apoplectic when reminded of that truth.

To complain about the evil is today more "offensive" than to express prejudices and act on them. This case has reinforced that totally unjust deal pressed upon us people of colour and may have made racial prejudice cool and acceptable again.

Last week, journalists and public figures raised their voices against vicious internet invective. They were either Muslims or visible minorities, who, like me, are continuously abused, not for what we say, but who were are. I will not read stuff sent to me by these scumbags, but knowing it is circulating disturbs my peace and confidence. Which is what they want. You can survive virtual stalking, but how do you keep your aspirations and sanity when your life chances are still determined by your race and faith?

Britain is a good country to be black or Asian in, better than all of the rest of Europe. It has come a long way since the 1950s. Inter-ethnic hostility, anti-white migrants and settlers, demented Islamists disfigure our society and are hateful. All that said and meant, white racism is still an evil, still around, and will, after Terry's victory, be more active and shameless than it has been. I hope I have convinced Mr Brown with this column, if no one else.