4 min read14 July
The government’s hypocrisy when it comes to England footballers taking the knee is astounding. Being non-racist is not enough, society will only change for the better if we all become anti-racists and call out racism.
The government’s hypocrisy when it comes to England footballers taking the knee is astounding.
Ministers are now lining up after each other to condemn the racism and abuse suffered by several players since Sunday, but the truth is they were never on their side and we all know it.
The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, once said that fans have a right to boo the team for taking the knee and said that it amounted to “gesture politics”.
The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, refused to condemn those who booed players taking a knee. This is of course the same person who once called black people “piccaninnies with watermelon smiles”.
The government refused to condemn its own Tory MPs – such as Lee Anderson who claims to have boycotted the Euros due to the players taking the knee, Brendan Clarke-Smith who compared taking a knee to England and German players making a Nazi salute in the 1930s, or Natalie Elphicke who said Marcus Rashford should have spent more time perfecting his game rather than “playing politics”.
And this is the same government which released the Race Report earlier this year claiming that institutional racism does not exist in the UK. The nasty party are truly back, or did they ever go away?
Government could have condemned from the very start those who booed players for taking the knee
Given this appalling record, when it comes to the fight against racism which the players stated was their reason for taking the knee, you can see why the likes of Tyrone Mings are not standing for the government’s hypocrisy and are calling them out.
If the government truly wanted to help, they could do so much more. They could have condemned from the very start those who booed players for taking the knee, they could have celebrated the players’ brave stand against racism and discrimination and promoted racial equality.
And the government could have introduced the Online Harms Bill, which was first promised over two years ago, to make social media companies responsible for harmful content on their platforms.
But instead, the Tories have stoked the culture war for their own benefit and have encouraged the boos. Once the England team started to do so well, they tried to piggyback on their success, but the players are rightly not allowing it.
Footballer Reece James was right to say: “We learn more about the society when we lose, far more than we learn when we win”. The team did amazingly well, and we are all proud of them. But what has happened since Sunday has shown us the extent of the problem – a racism problem which would have still been there had we won.
But I am hopeful of the future – not because of anything this government is doing, but because of the reaction in society, such as the amazing people who have covered up the abuse on the Marcus Rashford mural and filled it with affirmations and support.
I am optimistic because there are far more anti-racists than there are racists. Being non-racist is not enough, society will only change for the better if we all become anti-racists and call out racism. That is how we will build a society where everyone is accepted and not judged for the colour of their skin.
Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho and the rest of the England team should be immensely proud of what they achieved this summer. Not just their performances, but their fight against racism.
They are the best of us, and they deserve our support. It’s just a shame they don’t have the genuine support of the government.
The government’s culture war and war on woke is fuelling racism, but there are more of us than there are of them. We must choose hope over hate, unity over division and acceptance over ignorance.
Now is the moment to be an anti-racist.
Dawn Butler is the Labour MP for Brent Central.
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