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September 28, 2012 / trajsingh

Racism, discrimination and the sweet FA


Football fans in the UK have been following the saga of John Terry and his alleged racist remarks in a match against QPR last October for some time now. He was cleared by a court of law but found guilty in a separate FA hearing this week. (The court of law found that although he did say the words, it was not proven that was not just repeating them, incredulously, as opposed to originating them. The FA only needed it to be likely that he was abusing a fellow player on the ‘balance of probabilities” so the two verdicts are consistent in terms of having correctly applied their own rules/laws.

Leaving aside the fact that Terry has a history of interesting transgressions that he has always avoided being sanctioned for, the more interesting aspect of the case for me is around discrimination.

Over the last 30 years the UK has brought in a succession of laws broadly aimed at outlawing all sorts of discrimination, specifically around race, gender, sexual orientation and similar. The UK is certainly far behind the USA (IMHO) in terms of the conversation around these topics, and the open acknowledgement of them. But nonetheless the debate has changed enormously over that period, and the laws are well-intentioned at least.

(Although, wouldn’t it be more simple, and more correct, to have laws that focus on the rights of the individual? Instead of nailing specific forms of discrimination, rather, just state the general case: every human has specific rights which cannot be violated. Perhaps, as Churchill is rumored to have said, it just takes too long to write a concise letter, so they wrote lots of long laws instead. Heaven knows, the attention span of the modern politician, media employee and voter is far shorter today than it ever has been.)

Anyhow, here’s the point. Discrimination is part and parcel of every human. We all do it all the time. What to eat, who to be friends with, go left or right, who to marry, etc etc etc. And racism, for me, is discrimination based on ignorance of other people, coupled with the fear of the unfamiliar. (they don’t think like us, they’re not humans, they’re taking all our jobs, they eat weird food and so on).

So outlawing it is more or less futile, it’s human nature 🙂 And I’m not suggesting that people are trying to outlaw it, however, we should acknowledge the fact that racism, as one form of discrimination, will only start to ebb when the ignorance and fear are removed. I see it happening in my children’s generation, but still a ways to go yet.

The key to this is, I think, understanding that a person can be racist and yet not act on those fears and impulses. I myself have these fears, but always strive to act in an impartial and fair manner. I think most people are like me, but recognizing where the roots of the issue are would allow us to more effectively promulgate the sort of behavior we all want to see going forward.

Oh, and hats off to the old buffers at the FA for actually doing the right thing for a change, and referring it to the independent panel for review despite the court case.

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