The recent concern over acts of racism both proven and alleged within the Premier League (Suarez at Liverpool and Terry at Chelsea) remind us all that the spectre of discrimination within our society is never that far away. After all, what we see on the field of play is often no more than a reflection of what we ourselves may experience in everyday life. Yes, great strides towards eliminating such prejudice have been made, and we can rightly be pleased by our standing as one of the most racially-integrated societies in the world. But then the reminders of the distance still to be travelled are rarely far away.
It could be a casual jokey remark from someone in your company or hearing , or an uncritical reference to an alarmist newspaper story. It could perhaps take the form of a regurgitation of statistics, purporting to show the numbers of immigrants taking `our` benefits, or some anecdotal story about the laziness of certain ethnic groups. It could even be, as I was unfortunately recently privy to, a repetition of the old mantra that a house being sold in your predominantly white neck of the woods is to be purchased by a ` non-white` (you can probably imagine the actual words used; conveniently transferable to fit various minorities) accompanied by stern warnings of the impact this will have, both financial and social.
These instances all have one thing in common, particularly when no attempt is made to place any of the dialogue within either a critical or objective context; they demean. Not just the character of the perpetrator, but those of both the individual or group who are prepared to tolerate receipt of such `pearls of wisdom` without question or rebuttal, and of course, those who are the targeted subject of the abuse.A genuine, thoughtful, and sensitive discussion about the concerns experienced along the road to integration is always to be welcomed. In that way communities move forward. In the meantime however, we all have a duty as best we can to challenge ignorance and prejudice about such matters, no matter where, how or when this occurs . These `little battles` may be tiresome, lose us some sympathy, paint us as over reactionary (`I didn`t really mean it like that, you know`, you may subsequently be told),leave us feeling awkward, and possibly create into the bargain the impression that you`re a fun-less whinging liberal. But fought they must be. After all, that most basic human principle of `love your neighbour` was surely never meant to be optional upon your neighbour`s colour.
The more we challenge such matters, be it at the pub, the match, or in the shop, the sooner we`ll all be able live in a truly tolerant, integrated and open-minded society.