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50 Shades of Black and White

If you haven’t already caught it, I do recommend the clip of an incident on the Paris Metro just before last week’s PSG vs Chelsea game.  For his dignified confrontation against wilfully ignorant loutishness, the actions of M. Suleymane would be hard to best.

After a 10-hour day, he just wanted to get home, but was pushed out of a train, twice, by Chelsea supporters chanting ‘We’re racist, we’re racist, and that’s the way we like it.’  He lost his phone in the incident.

No one is going to be surprised at this, despite all the ‘Kick Racism out of Football’ efforts.  Not when every manager in the Premier Division is as white as the club boardrooms.  

But maybe it’s progress that this kind of thing is now relegated to the fringes of games.  You can’t get away with this at the match itself.  No more of the monkey grunts, shouts of ‘Cocopops’ and bananas that were hurled at Albert Johanneson when I saw him play on the left wing for Leeds in the 1960s.

But take a look at the quality of the excuses being given by the chanters:

‘We didn’t push him off, there just wasn’t enough room for any more.’

The video shows this is blatantly untrue.

‘It wasn’t because he was black.’ 

So that’s why one of the taunters pointed at his skin and they started up the chant.

‘No, the chant wasn’t about racism.  It was about John Terry.’

Meaning ‘it was about John Terry, the captain of the team we’ve paid a lot of money to come and support, being a racist’. 

For those of you who do not follow football, at least not into the courts, Terry was charged a couple of years ago with racially abusing Anton Ferdinand during a game against QPR, allegedly calling him a ‘fucking black cunt’.  The Football Association fined and suspended him, but the criminal court decided there was reasonable doubt because of Terry’s exculpatory argument. 

He claimed that his entire proposition was ‘I never said you were a fucking black cunt’.  But the ‘I never said you were a …’ bit was obscured by crowd noise and another player passing in front of the camera.

Which perhaps gives us an inkling as to why the ignoramuses on the train can come up with such pathetic excuses for excuses.

I wonder if a goal has ever been scored in the Prem without some defender raising an arm and appealing to the referee or his assistants for some non-existent offside, or handball, or wearing the wrong kind of boots.  Or has any important refereeing decision gone undisputed?  (This is a forte of Terry, who, besides playing as central defender, also finds the time and energy to double as the referee’s volunteer advisor, telling him at every turn which decisions are right and wrong.)

And it’s not just footballers.  The ‘we’re not racist’ UK Independence Party, whose members have talked of ‘Chinky birds’, ‘bongo-bongo land’ and, in a reference to a Thai woman, a ‘Ting-tong’, has just had to jettison yet another member for failing to meet their standards of non-racism.

Former UKIP former councillor Rozanne Duncan blurted out in front of TV cameras ‘The only people I do have problems with are negroes. … I really do have a problem with people with negroid features.’  And then unapologetically claimed that her comment ‘wasn’t racist, I think.  It was in no way meant to be derogatory or insulting.  It was almost like being a cry for help because I would love to know why I feel like this.’

So she’s not racist, you must understand, except for blacks, and it’s fundamentally a psychological trait for which she deserves understanding and help, rather than the heave-ho she got from her party.

A UK government sting operation a few years ago sent out job applications with fake CVs with equivalent qualifications and experience, and the same UK nationality, but with different names on them – Nazia Mahmood, Mariam Namagembe and Alison Taylor.  Non-existent Alison got double the responses of the other two, with private employers outdoing the public sector in discrimination. 

The yobbish behaviour in Paris and the indiscretions of UKIP members are at least out there to be condemned.  The insidious, hidden, and therefore virtually undetectable racism in job applications and who knows where else in daily life will be a much harder nut to crack.


About author:  Bangkokians with long memories may remember his irreverent column in The Nation in the 1980's. During his period of enforced silence since then, he was variously reported as participating in a 999-day meditation retreat in a hill-top monastery in Mae Hong Son (he gave up after 998 days), as the Special Rapporteur for Satire of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, and as understudy for the male lead in the long-running ‘Pussies -not the Musical' at the Neasden International Palladium (formerly Park Lane Empire).