The Black-British experience and football

  • Kevin Arulrajah

Zetteler’s Kevin Arulrajah comments on recent news and interviews Calum Jacobs about issue two of Caricom magazine.

If you were to ask me about the recent examples of racism in British football, I would be lying if I told you I was shocked. The parallels between football and society finally seem to be intersecting, however, the issues are deep-rooted and we're only scraping the surface.
Last Saturday England-footballer Raheem Sterling was a victim of racial abuse from Chelsea fans who do not fit the typical hooligan criteria, but yet again the media failed to point out the most important factor when reporting such events. That the individuals were white, and middle class. Indicating this isn't just a working class problem.
Rather than dwelling on the abuse, Sterling used his platform to point out how the UK media continue to negatively report on black footballers and – crucially – how this fuels aggressive and racist behaviour. Comparing two different headlines, one that praises a young white footballer for buying a £2 million house for his mother, with another headline that creates a polar opposite narrative for a young black player doing the same thing, suggesting that he is recklessly spending his money before he has started a premier league match.
“Both have done the right thing,” Sterling commented on his Instagram. “Which is to buy a new house for their mothers who have put in a lot of time and love into helping them get where they are, but look how the newspapers get their message across for the young black player and then for the young white payer. I think this is unacceptable, both innocent, have not done a thing wrong but just by the way it has been worded.”
Ultimately, being a person of colour, there’s one question that runs through my mind when I read about events like this: do white people even care? And I don’t apologise if that question offends you. Look back at recent events like Grenfell: still no justice for the victims. Brexit: how immigration was a focal point yet only 35 words on the mobility of people between the UK and EU in the prime minister’s Brexit deal (LOL). And how the national media continues to demonise Muslims but when domestic terrorism occurs the individual is portrayed as mentally ill rather than using religion or race as a narrative.
You know what, I should be grateful, it’s 2018 and there’s an activist and hashtag somewhere to empower anything and everything under the sun. But who is actually making a difference for the people in their communities?
England legend John Barnes told the BBC this week in response to the abuse directed at Sterling: “It didn't surprise me because black people go through invisible banana skins being thrown at them and unspoken racial abuse every day of their lives.”
I took the time to interview my good friend and talented writer Calum Jacobs to find out how publishing a magazine about football and race can help tackle these issues and bring awareness to the problem. Established a little over a year ago, CARICOM magazine sprang from a need to see football and fan culture examined through the under-explored lens of the black experience in Great Britain and beyond.  
Click here, to read the full interview.

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