Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: What's worse than racism? Complaining about it

White racism is still an evil, still around, and will, after Terry’s victory, be more active and shameless

Share
Related Topics

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, friends and people at the Leeds City Museum where I performed my one-woman show on Saturday, some of it about race and immigration. 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. (I leave out the insults offered by internet trolls.) 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. Strong beliefs in equality, human rights and justice are ties that bind us tightly in our marriage. This time we didn't agree. Mr Brown is white, I am, well, brown. His views on race come out of a lifetime of activism and painstaking evidence gathering. In the 1980s, he published seminal research on discrimination, which influenced government policies. I trust his judgements on these matters and 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. As my fellow columnist Ian Birrell wrote on these pages, national connivance and denial obscure the reality of British racism.

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. The black former basketball player, John Amaechi, tweeted: "Thanks football. You set the entire country back a decade. 'black c***' now officially OK to say". He's right. There is talk of black footballers now forming their own federation and taking action. Cole, who defended Terry, finds himself ridiculed and isolated.

The Ferdinand family has sought protection after getting death threats. It's what they get for having two amazing sons playing brilliantly for top teams. When our non-white competitors win medals for the country, they are highly praised, but always conditionally. For some recognition (not enough) they have to be prepared to be dumped on, never protest and know their place.

Last week, a number of 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?

Police chiefs still haven't excised racism from their forces. Hardly any rising black or Asian officer survives that culture. The Coalition shows no interest in collecting data about the provable discrimination in schools, workplaces, housing, politics, private clubs, the NHS, the criminal justice system, sports, the arts and media. Why bother when virulent anti-immigration rhetoric and rules produce easy popularity? And anti-terrorist measures even more so?

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.

React Now

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

IT Project Manager (technical, applications, infrastructure)

£55000 - £60000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: IT Proj...

English Teacher (Bristol and South Gloucestershire)

Negotiable: Randstad Education Bristol: English teachers for day to day cover,...

Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Year 6 Teacher RequiredThis teaching...

SharePoint Administrator - Bishop's Stortford / Stansted

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SharePoint Administrator - Bishop's ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Video stills documenting the moments before a nine-year-old lost control of the uzi  

Now the Uzi victim's children have offered forgiveness, America can forget

David Usborne
 

Scottish independence: We cannot risk our children’s future

Blair McDougall
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week