John Barnes on racism in football and society
Anyone who has followed the race rows in the Premier League football this season, most notably of course the John Terry and Anton Ferndinand (which rumbled on this week) affair and the Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra controversy, will be interested to hear what Liverpool legend John Barnes has to say on the subject.
I personally found Barnes' comments during the heated debate over both incidents this season to be the most sensible of all that were made. And there were a lot of talking heads talking a lot of nonsense during the furore.
The former England winger's views are best encapsulated in this interview he did with Sky News:
This week, Barnes gave a lecture on racism in football at the University of Liverpool. Entitled 'What is the cause of racism in football?' the lecture went much deeper than football and discussed racism in society on whole.
Particularly he focussed in on what he called passive racism, or PR, which is best summed up in his own words: "What I consider as passive racism is that there are people, who if they have a choice, would always prefer to live next door to a white person rather than a black person," he told an audience of around 400 people.
He dismissed the idea that race even exists in the first place, painting it as a man-made construct used by colonialists hundreds of years ago to justify their actions. It's a sort of construct which has negatively impacted on all of us in both formulating the wider views of society about people of a different 'race' and most obviously on the victims of colonialist atrocities and slavery.
Barnes argued that we can't simply crack down on racism in football by banning it and having campaigns like Kick Racism Out of Football and Show Racism the Red Card, which were ironically born out of Eric Cantona's infamous kung-fu kick on a Crystal Palace fan 17 years ago - an attack by a white man on another white man - but we must tackle the underlying issues that lead to people making racist remarks and acting in a racist way.
We must address this issue of passive racism, he said.
From what Barnes is saying there is no magic bullet to solving the problem in football or indeed in society but education is a positive step, an education in which diversity is celebrated and the root cause of passive and unconscious racism is tackled.
Barnes was the focus of much racist abuse when he played for Liverpool in the 1980s, and this iconic photo is typical of what he had to put up with. So any views he expresses on the subject should be examined and respected.
Particularly when in the case of this lecture he has identified some of the root causes of racism that are not confined to the beautiful game.
And we shouldn't be foolish enough to think they are.