Ssh, don’t tell anyone, but I watched the last hour of the Euro 2020 final on Sunday. I switched it on at 10 pm to see if it had finished, purely as I wanted to go to bed, but only safe in the knowledge that I wouldn’t be woken up by screeches of joy, or the other. So I caught the whole penalty thing, sad as it was for England, then I went to bed assured I’d get a decent sleep.
I was horrified when I woke up the next morning to see that the conversations were not about the football at all, but about appalling racism, mainly targetted towards those who’d not got the ball in the back of the net on Sunday night. Good grief. I saw the condemnations of the abuse before I saw examples of the actual abuse. Yesterday (Monday) it seemed was wall to wall coverage of the abuse, with minor interludes of joy with the previously defaced mural of the amazing Marcus Rashford being adorned with hearts and handwritten notes – lovely stuff Manchester, lovely.
However, today, the conversation is mainly focused on how social media companies need to do more to tackle online abuse. I applaud this. They have been slow, and their judgement and speed are both flawed and algorithm-driven, rather than human-driven, responses. What is distinctly lacking thus far though from the discourse is anything looking at or talking about tackling racism in real life.
That bloke, sadly, right here in Manchester, from that property company, (who is claiming he was hacked on Twitter – right!)) did not suddenly become a racist when those penalties didn’t go in did he? I find it hard to believe that his abhorrent views were not on show day-to-day for colleagues and clients to see. Racists are not known for hiding their racism! That said, even the most robust recruitment process isn’t going to weed out the racists, so it’s not that property companies fault he is racist. Calls to boycott the company are a bit OTT in my opinion and not remotely justified.
What we all need to do is get better at calling out the racists in real life. Not just the vile comments on Twitter and Facebook but the real-life seemingly throwaway comments and micro-aggressions that do serious harm.
Statements from businesses/organisations saying they won’t tolerate racism need to crack on and get some procedures in place for dealing with stuff in the moment, as it happens. “We stand with” and “we support” statements are all well and good, but 1. we should expect that as a minimum, (do we think those that don’t put out statements don’t support?) and 2. only if their actions match their words. The discourse needs to change. Words matter.