The international insurance company Groupama and Liverpool and Spain goalkeeper Pepe Reina have both shamed themselves in the making of the racially stereotypical television advert that depicts Reina meeting a Black “tribe” in a jungle scene, which is both racist and homophobic.
The other powerful image is the persistent White association of Black people with monkeys. The inference being Black people are more closely related to apes than to modern man. The cultural resonance of these types of stereotype are so powerful, I bet even as you read this you can see these mental pictures in your head.
There is a view within the UK’s Black communities that we are increasingly expected to laugh at such examples of racism in the name of tolerance. God forbid that Black people should react or publically complain should they have the temerity to do so, their complaint will be routinely dismissed as “having a chip on your shoulder”.
If they are public figures they will be lambasted by sections of the printed press and will undoubtedly face an avalanche of racism from the UK’s growing online Twitter Tea Party tendency.
As you would expect, Black people are naturally reluctant to collude with our own oppression in a society t
hat arrogantly and falsely assumes that Britain is a “post-racist society”. Such denial is the stock response to any accusation of racism in the UK.
To date, neither Liverpool FC, nor Reina has issued a statement on this issue. No doubt they are in denial, hoping this issue will blow over. The club has made that mistake before. It is bizarre that they seem to be determined to repeat the mistakes of the past in relation to this latest incident.
Their reported stance can be summarised as ‘what the player does off the field is nothing to do with the club’. This, of course, is complete and utter nonsense and reinforces the growing perception of LFC as a club that is failing to take racism seriously.
Here is some free advice for LFC: Ensure Pepe Reina gives an immediate explanation and apology. As a gesture of remorse and by way of repairing the damage done, Reina should donate the fee he received for the advert to an anti-racism charity. End of.
What starts off as Reina’s extra-curricular earner or a ‘bit of fun’, ends up as racial chanting on the terraces.
The persistence of racism in sport and advertising affects us all. In particular, Black footballers, Black fans, Black politicians and activists and communities are all forced to endure the ignominy of such ignorant portrayals and the on-going right-wing backlash that follows any attempt to raise the issue of racism. And yet what children see players doing today, they do on the streets tomorrow.
The fact that these cruel and archetypal racist stereotypes persist to this day is significant. Such is the all-pervading power of racism and the prevalence of graphic, racist propaganda dressed up as advertising. These derogatory images of Africans are globally recognised and instantly understood by millions across the world.
In both Europe and the UK, Black people have faced serious abuse and at times, deadly violence when faced with groups of White youth infected by such imagery. Such stereotypes are grossly offensive and extremely dangerous.
The last few months has seen the issue of racism in football splashed on the front and back pages of the British press. Liverpool Football Club’s disgraceful handling of the Luis Suarez affair saw a combination of racial abuse and ungentlemanly conduct inflame racial tension on the terraces. Black leaders from Liverpool and across the country wrote in protest at the clubs action, describing Liverpool FC's inept handling of the Suarez matter as “inciting racism”.
Prime Minister David Cameron called a summit of the resurgent phenomena of racism in the national game. As the economy continues to stall and unemployment rise, there is growing anecdotal evidence that the violent racism and bigotry is on the rise across Europe and the UK.
As we approach the European Championships in Eastern Europe, whose record on tackling extreme, violent racism is abysmal, the Football Association, English clubs and FIFA need to send a strong and unambiguous message to players and clubs that racism will not be tolerated in the beautiful game.
My advice is that Black football fans should not attend the EURO 2012 games without absolute assurances from the UK and FIFA that they will not be subject to racial violence and or abuse.
Liverpool Football Club needs to support the efforts of the FA to challenge racism and take real action to provide a national lead in tackling racism.