By William Hallowell | Editor
In the wake of England’s Euros defeat and racial abuse hurled at its players, many have been quick to point the finger at the Conservative Party.
Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho – all three are BAME footballers; all three missed penalties in the final, which resulted in England’s undeserved defeat to Italy.
Subsequently, they have been subjected to completely condemnable and “appalling” – in the words of the Prime Minister – racism, from remarks about not “coming home” (with the obvious double meaning) to a spam of monkey emojis on social media. Many, from Gary Neville to Keir Starmer and to fellow England colleague, Tyrone Mings (as well as many fans), have pointed the finger at the Conservative Party. With particular aim at Boris Johnson and Priti Patel, the argument has been made that even if not directly, they have almost certainly encouraged the racism targeted at the three players who missed their penalties.
This argument has been put forward as a result of Conservative Party MPs openly opposing the Black Lives Matter movement and thus the “gesture”, as Patel labelled it, of taking the knee. It is fair to say that due to their opposition to the movement, they have been blamed for perpetuating racism and failure to call it out – almost as if they are seen as by-standers. But this would be to take the term Black Lives Matter at its face value – to assume it really does stand for ‘anti-racism’ and that there are no political implications of backing the ideologically-driven movement.
Take Kick It Out or Say No to Racism as examples: little opposition – if any – is taken to these anti-racism messages in football. That is because unless one is genuinely a racist it should be hard for one to take opposition to actual anti-racism campaigns. The aforementioned are not fronted by a political ideology which exists outside football – a political ideology with an agenda to shake up the Westminster establishment. And, whilst a fresh change to politics could often be welcomed, it would be mad to side with – or to ‘take the knee’ for – a movement fronting as ‘anti-racism’ but that actually pushes a radical agenda with a view to ‘abolish’ the police, prisons and courts. No, this is not an exaggeration; no, this is not paraphrasing their words, or even taking them out of context. These are the words of one of the organisation’s founders, which the movement follows.
When we say #DefundThePolice, we mean abolition—we’re not just talking about what we get rid of. It’s also what we create and envision in its place. Radical imagination.— Black Lives Matter (@Blklivesmatter) February 23, 2021
Listen to our ED @osopepatrisse breakdown what abolition means to our movement.https://t.co/SQ32FeVb11
It is clear that Black Lives Matter is not just an anti-racism campaign; in reality, it is far more than that. It is a political movement, with a political ideology, which extends to far beyond the realms of football and the cleverly phrased slogan ‘Black Lives Matter’ – which yes, does suggest an innocent anti-racism message.
When football fans and politicians take issue with BLM it is not a ‘racist’ opposition to the phrase ‘black lives matter’ (note the deliberate use of lower case letters here) – it is opposition to the organisation, the theory: capital B, capital L, capital M. Taking the knee in the name of BLM is complacency with this anti-establishment, abolitionist movement.
However, that being said, this does not mean to say some politicians have not taken opposition to BLM too far. Conservative backbencher Lee Anderson, who defected from Labour, has boycotted England games, out of principle. The fact he has chosen to do this, not scared of being labelled ‘racist’ or any other ad hominem commonly thrown at Tories without any real substance, is well within his right, but it is rather a step too far and even immature perhaps – especially when England did so well. What is also sad though, is that this has presented another opportunity for left-wing commentators and politicians to create an unsubstantiated moral panic, an opportunity to label England a racist country only days after virtual flag-waving on Twitter.
Racism is a serious and prevalent problem. It is – clearly – a serious and prevalent problem within football, as the nation saw in the wake of defeat. It is a serious and prevalent problem within wider society too, and must be addressed as such. But that does not start with the naïve participation in an anarchic and dystopian view of the world.
Image credit: UK Prime Minister