Christina Patterson: The world really has changed. But Sepp Blatter hasn't noticed yet

 

Share

There was a point where it all got rather surreal.

That was the point when an old white man, who runs an organisation that seems to attract an awful lot of criticism, appeared to accuse a young black man of racism. The white man was Sepp Blatter, the 75-year-old head of football's "governing body". The young black man was Rio Ferdinand, a footballer who plays for England and Manchester United. And the surreal moment was when Blatter, or possibly someone tweeting on his behalf, told Ferdinand that the person Ferdinand had called, in a tweet, a "black man" had a name.

You can see why he'd want to bring it up. It's a brilliant name, the kind you'd be dying to toss into a conversation, maybe even join Twitter to tweet. Perhaps that's why Blatter, or someone on his behalf, issued a photograph of him hugging Tokyo Sexwale. Perhaps it had nothing to do with the fact that Tokyo Sexwale (which isn't, apparently, pronounced "sex whale") is black.

But it certainly looked, when Sepp Blatter issued the photo with a headline saying "committed to the fight against racism", as if the Minister of Human Settlements of South Africa had been given his rare starring role on the Fifa website because of the colour of his skin. Rio Ferdinand seemed to think so. "I need the covering eyes symbol!!" he tweeted. "Fifa," he explained, "clear up the Blatter comments with a pic of him posing with a black man..." A "pic", he didn't need to say, whose message seemed to be "some of my best friends are black".

To be fair to Blatter, some of his best friends are black. Jack Warner, who once told an audience that a "white foreigner" who was trying to interview him was "trash", and who resigned from his post as vice president of Fifa after being accused of offering bribes, is black. So is Mohamed bin Hammam, who planned to run against Blatter as Fifa president, but who, after investigations by an "ethics committee" some were surprised to discover existed, was, unfortunately, banned from Fifa for life. You couldn't really say that Fifa wasn't, in all kinds of ways, an equal opportunities employer.

But you could certainly say that its approach to what a lot of people, but not necessarily Fifa, call racism, is quite old-fashioned. It's old-fashioned in the way that those signs that used to be displayed outside guest houses saying "no blacks, no dogs, no Irish" now seem a bit old-fashioned. If, say, you'd just come over from Jamaica, because the British Government invited you, and were looking for somewhere to stay, and saw one of those signs, you were meant to just smile and keep walking until you found somewhere else. And if, say, another player on the pitch should refer to the colour of your skin, in a way that didn't sound complimentary, and maybe use "a word or a gesture which is not the correct one", then what you should do, according to Blatter, is say that "this is a game" and "at the end of the game we shake hands". You should do this, he implied, because these are the examples that triggered the question, even if the other person has called you a "nigger" or a "fucking black cunt".

He seemed to be surprised when his comments didn't go down all that well. He seemed to think that he had been "misunderstood". He was "committed", he said, though it might have been nice if he'd come up with a different metaphor, to "kicking" racism "out".

Perhaps when Blatter sees football fans making monkey noises, and throwing bananas when a black player comes on the pitch, which sometimes happens in Spain (and which is why one black British player left his Spanish team after one season), he thinks they're just being friendly. Perhaps, like Berlusconi talking about Obama, he thinks it's funny to talk about a black person's "tan". Perhaps he doesn't realise that the world has changed.

It takes time to change a culture, and an awful lot of effort. Sometimes people get confused. Sometimes they mix up race and culture, and think that if you criticise a culture, you're also criticising the colour of someone's skin. They think that stating certain facts – about levels of Nigerian fraud, say, or absent Caribbean fathers, or the lyrics of certain rappers – or even not liking the work of particular artists, makes you a racist. They seem to like calling other people racist. It seems to give them a nice, warm glow.

Race has nothing whatsoever to do with culture. It's the thing we can't, whatever efforts we make, change. To insult someone for their race, and not for what they do or say, or even for how they play a game, is about as low as a human being can go.

On Thursday, a black man testified in a London court. He testified even though his father had died the night before. He spoke about the night, 18 years ago, when his friend, Stephen Lawrence, was killed. He described how some young white men had chased them, and how one waved "something shiny" before his friend fell. He said that when his friend got up, and ran, "blood was streaming out around his neck". As he talked, Duwayne Brooks cried. When his best friend died, he said, the word his killers yelled out was "nigger".

Better living through technology

To be honest, I'd forgotten, but the Carphone Warehouse hadn't. They sent me a lovely email to say that it's been a year since I bought my iPhone. At first, I couldn't understand how everyone else seemed to know how to stroke it in a way that made magical things happen. I wondered if, like breastfeeding, it was something you were meant to be born knowing. But I'm getting the hang of it. The map that tells you where you are seems better than a virgin birth. So does the app that tells you your bus is on its way. I was Lady Luddite, but now, as Gadget Girl, I'm free. It can't be long before, like pretty much everyone else, I'm wearing giant (Ironic? Retro? Can someone please explain?) headphones.

How much lower will this scandal go?

When Errol Morris decided to call his latest documentary Tabloid, he can't have known that its British release would coincide with the biggest ever investigation into the tabloid press. Its star is a former beauty queen who in 1977 was accused of kidnapping and raping her Mormon ex-boyfriend, and went on to get her dead dog cloned. As Theresa May said, I'm not making this up. In this case, the relationship between tabloid "victim" and tabloid hack feels, most of the time, pretty equal. In the stories from the Leveson inquiry, it doesn't. This week's include a suicide and an attempt at suicide that failed. That's a big, shameful, and possibly industry-wrecking leap from "The Manacled Mormon".

c.patterson@independent.co.uk / Twitter.com/queenchristina_

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron has painted a scary picture of what life would be like under a Labour government  

You want constitutional change? Fixed-term parliaments have already done the job

Steve Richards
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song  

Ukip Calypso by Mike Read? The horror! The horror!

Patrick Strudwick
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past