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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Dynamics CRM Developer (C#, .NET, Dynamics CRM 2011/2013)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Dynamics CRM D...

Web Developer (C#, ASP.NET, AJAX, JavaScript, MVC, HTML)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Web Developer ...

C# R&D .NET Developer-Algorithms, WCF, WPF, Agile, ASP.NET,MVC

£50000 - £67000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NE...

C# Developer (Web, HTML5, CSS3, ASP.NET, JS, Visual Studios)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Deputy Editor's Letter:

Independent Voices, Indy Voices Rhodri Jones
A couple stand in front of a beautiful cloudy scene  

In sickness and in health: It’s been stormy but there are blessings in the clouds

Rebecca Armstrong
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?