Let’s talk about anti-racism in football
‘When you win, you’re English. When you lose, you’re an immigrant.’ This phrase on social media in the last couple of days sums up the shocking but sadly unsurprising racism levelled at Marcus Rashford MBE, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho following the Euros final.
Many of us undoubtedly want to take action against racism but we can struggle with what to say or do. I’ve put together some practical actions that all of us can take to help eradicate racism and create the genuinely kind, respectful society we wish to live in.
8 things you can do – starting today…
1 – Check in with your friends and colleagues who are ethnic minorities, particularly those who are Black.
You don’t have to have read every book on anti-racism to be able to ask ‘how are you?’ or, more crucially, to offer assistance. If you are offering help, you should make sure that you reach out at the right time and in the right environment and you may wish to think of a few concrete actions to suggest. Send your children to school together so that your Black friend’s children are not alone and vulnerable on the bus; walk to the station with your hijabi colleague after going out to dinner; offer to have that difficult conversation with your mutual colleague about their inappropriate reactions on social media.
It’s always good to ask ‘how can I help,’ but it’s also useful to make proactive suggestions so that the burden is not on people of colour to come up with the solutions when their mental health may have been negatively affected.
2 – Show your support for the English team, particularly Rashford, Saka and Sancho, whether that’s during a conversation with family or on social media.
3 – Don’t qualify your terms of support for Rashford, Saka and Sancho. They do not need to have donated to charity or become a role model to deserve basic dignity and respect – this plays into the ‘good immigrant’ stereotype.
4 – Report instances of racism where you see them online. The Premier League has a useful guide on how to report comments and users across various social media platforms.
5 – Speak up where you hear friends, family members, or colleagues making inappropriate or racist comments. As someone they know and trust, you have the unique opportunity to provide an alternative point of view they might listen to. It doesn’t have to be an angry confrontation – this practical guide might help.
6 – Talk about racism with your children. Children are not ‘too young’ to learn about the existence of racism when devastatingly there are children experiencing racism. Children’s books such as Antiracist Baby are aimed at gently teaching children about anti-racism -accompanied by a free learning guide for parents. There are also organisations such as Music. Football. Fatherhood that provide resources and run events for parents to share their experiences and learn from experts.
7 – Make this a regular conversation – anti-racism isn’t a ‘one off’ action, it’s a lifelong series of choices. Continue to reflect on your own behaviours, beliefs, surroundings, and actions. Make learning a continual habit rather than a reaction to events in the headlines. You can do this by finding regular and easy ways to incorporate learning into your everyday life:
- Sign up to newsletters from organisations such as The Unmistakables and Business in the Community, so you are consistently engaged with anti-racism work.
- If you use social media, follow accounts which focus on anti-racism and inequity—seeing their content regularly could increase your level of exposure to these issues. You can also simply follow more ethnic minorities in general – if your Instagram is all about art, find BAME artists you like and follow them.
- Netflix has a wealth of brilliant and diverse content with BAME protagonists- watch some of it. If reading is your thing check out BAME authors and stories including books for your children. You might investigate what exposes you to people who don’t look like you, and how that might influence you.
8 – Remember that taking action requires bravery. It’s not always easy to be assertive, but in the words of Nelson Mandela, ‘I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.’ And if it helps to galvanize you, remember: the fear of speaking up pales in comparison to the reality of you and your children being attacked for the colour of your skin. So pick one action from the list above, and begin the work today.