Boro’s response to racist abuse yesterday afternoon has made headlines, even if it was not the headlines the club were hoping to make pre-match.
But one of the refrains that keeps coming up is that the game was called off due to the actions of a “mindless minority” of away fans. That was the refrain from Yeovil supporters over and over again.
The existence of expensively educated racists such as the one in 10 Downing Street gives lie to the implication that racism is a product of ignorance, unless there’s a meaningful difference between spewing racial hatred at a football ground and doing so in a newspaper column?
And while it’s undoubtedly true that the people who racially abused Coby Rowe and Valery Pajatet yesterday, causing the game to be abandoned numbered in the low handful, they are only present at football grounds because of passive tolerance from their fellow fans.
Many Yeovil fans quite rightly and instantly condemned the racist abuse. Meanwhile, others, including ones with large profiles, such as Mundial Magazine Editor Seb White, announced that they heard nothing – with the implication being that nothing took place; essentially accusing Coby and Valery of storming off the pitch for no good reason at all, and then lying about it.
Others, such as Ciderspace contributor “Old Green Eyes” put on their Sherlock Holmes pipe and deerstalker and dug out a similar incident, at Hitchin, two seasons ago, where Boro players reported that they’d received racist abuse from Hitchin fans.
Also, undoubtedly, in the “vast majority of decent Yeovil fans” is Stephen D’Albiac. Stephen is a journalist and wrote an opinion piece for Somerset Live saying there was “no evidence” for racism – as though the experiences and testimony of Black players who experience racism counts for absolutely nothing, unless there’s white witnesses or, (given that some Yeovil fans said they did hear racism) video footage. That’s not how the law works in this country, thankfully, but to simply ask for more evidence for racism before doing anything at all is a neat way to avoid doing anything about racism in football ever.
This, together with the fact that the FA dropped the case due to lack of evidence, was apparently evidence that Borough “have form” for making such allegations, as though two incidents of racist abuse in three years is somehow far less credible than a football team randomly deciding to accuse opposition fans of racism once every two years.
These denialists and apologists, a much larger minority than the actual racists, act as a shield for those who do behave in a racist way at football. You could add whoever runs Yeovil’s twitter whose first instinct when Boro left the pitch was to suggest Haringey players had lost their tempers, as if this was the only penalty we’d ever conceded.
While we’re at it, lets add the FA to that list. When Padiham players received racist abuse at Congleton, they left the pitch. Congleton were fined £160 for the racism while Padiham received a £165 fine for taking a stand against racism.
The very same people who were on television last week condemning Bulgarian fans’ racist abuse, only two years ago were covering up the racism reported by Eni Aluko. Gareth Southgate, lauded this week for his stance against racism, described Mark Sampson as “an excellent character” at a point where the Lionesses manager was accused of fostering a racist culture within the England setup.
Racism is perpetuated because people believe their colleagues or fellow fans over Black players telling them what they heard or experienced. And that’s a far bigger problem than one or two drunk racists.
I’m extremely proud of the way Boro stood together as a club to oppose racism, but we should certainly not expect any favours from authorities.