According to Manchester United footballer Patrice Evra you can make a racist remark and not be a racist. Was he just saying that the opponent who he accused of repeatedly racially abusing him was not racist to appease his fellow professionals? Did he mean look this guy is not a wicked person just ignorant and insensitive? I can understand the reluctance to call someone a racist, it is after all one of the worst things you can say about someone in our society. Presumably that is why no one ever admits to being a racist even those who use racist language and hold racist views. Being a racist is without dispute a very bad thing.
If a racist is not someone who uses racially abusive language what then does a racist do that makes them a racist? To be a racist do you have not only to abuse someone because of the colour of their skin but hold views that some people are inferior due to the colour of their skin and therefore do not deserve to be treated the same as the rest of us? So if you only meet part of this criteria does that mean you are not racist? If you call someone a black so and so that is useing racist language but if you claim at the same time to believe in treating everyone fairly and not discriminating on the grounds of colour does that mean you are not a racist?
I know it sounds like we are just playing with words but what people say and how they say it is important as is what we assume when they use this type of language. I belive that most people I have come across through work or socially are not racist but I have heard racist language used at work and in social gatherings. I explain this by the fact that people are often ignorant of other people’s culture, circumstances and feelings. That people are constantly feed negative stereotypes about Muslims, Asians or black people and so they often speak without thinking or realising the impact their words will have. But if an individual repeatedly makes these remarks despite being told if is offensive, hurtful and racist then clearly this is not ignorance but a true reflection of the way they think.
But does this view that using racist language does not make the individual a racist then result in people claiming that there is no racism in football or in this office with the implication that nothing needs to be done?
Blair McPherson author of An Elephant in the Room –an equality and diversity training manual published by www.russellhouse.co.uk