|Oldham FC player Tom Adeyemi allegedly being racially abused at the FA cup tie by a Liverpool FC fan in Anfield|
I struggle like many in the modern age to pin point exactly when I am being confronted by racism, due to the new and emerging subtleties and sophistication involved in the act of racism. The linking of historical atrocities to the continued importance of economic and cultural factors in today’s societies is becoming increasingly blurred as we are now forced to analyse the use of characters, who (Pepe Reina, for example) now feature in reinforcing negative 'black' stereotypes in an attempt to be humorous and sell a product.
First we must contextualise and understand, in both Spain and most of Latin America it is a cultural norm that the lighter your skin tone, in terms of your blackness, the greater your status is. Greater, is also, the likelihood, that you will find a brown skinned person, (who in the UK, would be considered by many, as black and of African heritage), undermining a darker skinned person. The Suarez comment, supported by his countries (Uruquay) president, “I don’t speak to Black people” is a high profile case that demonstrates this point.
The depiction of Pepe Reina, in the Groupama Seguros –Insurance company advert, being given to the blackened up African king, for sexual purposes with Pepe a brown skinned man who’s name equates to queen in his county, being presented by the black man, demonstrates this reality also. The blacking up of white men, imitating what is heard as an African accent, in the advert, with Reina, harks back to a time, when black African people were not considered to represent anything beyond what was considered to be an 'uncivilized' African culture. And to add further, not considered fit to be true representatives of their entire or positively civilized African cultural identity.
In the advert we are shown the white and blackened up representative and its brown skinned queen, supposedly all in good humour. This level of subtle racism, may escape the historical memory of those who know better, or the informed or educated mind who wish to understand better. It cannot however and should not escape any one of us, that such choice of words, representations of a identity, culture, ethnicity and actions, only serve to portray all things black and African as less than, undesirable and something to be laughed at.
What disturbs me most, as a woman of African heritage, who has the skin colouring of both Suarez and Reina, is the connection both these incidents have to the city of Liverpool, its football club and the long established residency of people like me who have an African heritage. A community of people, who now, may be visibly described, as white skinned or light brown skinned, brown eyed or blue eyed, fair haired or blond haired people. A group of people incidentally, that in my father's Jamaican culture was known as being able to 'pass’ or in my mother’s Irish culture known by the ethnic slur of ‘blackie or darkie.’
Simply speaking it was and is still perceived in many cities and countries around the world, that people who fit this description are more acceptable to white culture and people, given a higher status, and at times able to bypass racism. In addition it was believed this could be used for their own ends in some of the ways we have seen it played out in Spain and the Latin American countries and more recently the two players in Liverpool Football Club through Suarez and Reina.
LFC seem determined to not acknowledge the role, their cultural practices and their ethics has had in what has been a catalogue of errors in their management of issues around race and racism. They seem uninterested in admitting to their error, let alone apologizing, understanding or learning from it.
It will be at humanities peril, mentally, physically, emotionally and economically, especially for the descendents of African people if we ignore or minimize the reality of this new and emerging form of racial discrimination, A discrimination, packaged as an acceptable cultural norm, that one should dismiss, consider as humorous or just part of LFC’s acceptable culture that should go unchallenged.
This abuse is an affront to the proud tradition of racial integration and cohesion in the city of Liverpool, which all fans or non supporters should be rightly concerned about. We really must become involved in understanding the cause and reasons why we find our city at the centre of such behaviour with no civic or political leader being prepared to make a stand. We have to start talking seriously about race, honestly and constructively to seek to resolve what many continue to conveniently deny in the city of Liverpool and beyond.
Gloria Hyatt MBE
Education Consultant and Executive Coach.
Consortium of Liverpool and National Black and Anti- Racism Organisations