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The successful conviction of two of the five key suspects in the muder of Stephen Lawrence; Diane Abbott's tweets and the Suarez and Terry cases have all served to put racism very firmly on the media and public agenda.
Whatever your culture or beliefs, it is not difficult to recognise ignorance, prejudice or, in the case of specific references to colour or country of origin, racism. The Daily Mail, that paragon of Middle English balance when it comes to those from 'beyond our shores', was quick to jump on the Diane Abbot Twitterstorm in which she claimed that 'white people love to play "divide and rule".
Is the incandescent rage of the political parties really about racism or about the fact that Britain's colonial roots are once again coming back to haunt this country and Abbott's ill-expressed comment is presents an opportunity to rid the House of Commons benches of another person willing to speak the unspeakable?
The reality is, talk is cheap. Dr Richard Stone - a former GP and member of the panel on the Macpherson Inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence - has been vociferous in his views that the police's attitude to race was instrumental in its failures to catch and convict those involved in Lawrence's murder. His article on the state of BME recruitment in today's force is both revealing and deeply concerning. Despite AC Cressida Dick's blandishments, it would seem that much of the change is not, in fact, skin deep.
In my view, the true test of attitudes to racism is in the response. The shameful behaviour of Liverpool FC over the actions of Luis Suarez says more about the attitude of the club, its management and its team of players than it does about the one individual who clearly is too ignorant (in its literal sense of the word) to know better. It's like being 'a little bit pregnant' - you can't be 'a little bit racist'.
Having been a sports journalist and an ardent West Ham fan, I have witnessed first-hand the violent racism on the terraces in the 70's and 80's, while having a former club director look me in the eye and deny being aware of any racism at the club.
Yes, much has been done in this country to 'kick it out' on the terraces - which is more than can be said for other nations or those in charge of the sport at a global level - but, as Herman Ouseley so eloquently comments, "Liverpool's hypocrisy undermines anti-racism and our young people".
The work undertaken by small media projects such as Salaam Shalom in Bristol or more crusading organisations such as Searchlight magazine, or the 18 bitter years of compaigning by Doreen Lawrence that have led to two convictions and significant changes in legislation, often seem like shouting into the wind when law and order, political or major sporting institutions do so much to undermine the message that racism, of any kind, is fundamentally and inexcuseably wrong.
That being said, while we still have the freedom to shout into the hot air of racism, we should do so at every opportunity.
Published 5th January, 2012