Sunday, 22 February 2015

Racism & Complicity

By 9am Wednesday, the video was everywhere. Chelsea were in the headlines, but not for their draw against Paris St Germain. A group of the club's fans committed a despicable racist act that was caught on camera and quickly circulated online. 

People were rightly shocked. This inexcusable behaviour laid bare the ugly fact that for all our advancement, racism is very much alive and well. This post is not specifically about Chelsea, their history with racism, or even about football. This post is about one question that has bandied around my head since I first saw the video - why didn't anybody intervene?

In a packed metro station, for the duration of this ordeal, the man, Souleymane S, is left to face it alone. Clearly there was shocking dialogue and behaviour preceding the filmed footage that made the person reach into their pocket and grab their phone to film the incident. But there wasn't one person who stood beside Souleymane to tell the Chelsea fans to stop, or to even see if he was okay.

Nobody did.  The only reaction the passersby's had was to watch what was happening, without doing anything about it.

The defence to such inaction is that people were shocked, they didn't know what to do, that they were fearful for their own safety should they get involved. And my response to any of these is "Not good enough". 

As appalled as  I am at these disgusting people that did this to another human, I'm disappointed at the immediate public reaction. I can't see how you could witness this happen and just stand there. How you could not even go over to the man, ask him if he was okay, give him a kind word and just show a shred of human decency in the face of such indecent behaviour? 

The reason I say "Not good enough" to any of the arguments that might be put forward as to why other people didn't get involved is because it allows us all to pass the buck to someone else - but when it comes to racism, the buck stops with each one of us. Titanic issues of injustice and bigotry are not defeated by high-profile campaigns and talking heads issuing great sound-bytes. It begins at home, with each one of us. It's our active resistance when confronted with it - whether that means not forcing a laugh at a racist joke to avoid an awkward situation or intervening when it's happening in front of your very eyes. 

The world has now joined in on Souleymane's fight - the public reaction has ensured that those who committed this crime will be pursued. But it's not enough to exchange shocked responses when confronted with an the unacceptable - struggles against injustice need more than words. To succeed, they need action to back up the sentiment. It's one thing to say racism is disgusting and has no place in the world. But the proof in this pudding lies in what you do when faced with it in reality. 

This video has gotten everybody talking about racism and in this particular instance, it's presence in football. But perhaps we should also be talking about our response to it - and examine ourselves closely as to why it's socially acceptable to simply watch as this happens to another human. 

Mucho Love,

Vicky xoxo 

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