In the fallout of the circus that is international football, with all its positive messages of tolerance and unity there has been much reaction to the social media abuse of a number of players – notably those whose skin is not white. Both the British Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have responded by labelling this abuse as appalling and saying that it has no place in this country… really? No place?
What (remarkably) is missing is the condemnation of the fans that booed the Italian National Anthem in the stadium, or those that whistled at Italian players when the match started. (The English fans booed many if not all of the National Anthems of opposing teams.) Abuse is OK apparently, as long as it is British people abusing non-British people… All of which belies the words of Boris Johnson who urged) “on action rather than gestures.” – clearly he isn’t taking any action on this at all, merely making the ‘gesture’ of sending out a ‘tweet’ about one part of the problem.
This is the self-same Prime Minister who refused to condemn the fans that booed the England players taking a knee before the match, and the same Home Secretary who is madly pushing anti-immigration policies; indeed two people who campaigned for Brexit, supported by reasoning such as ‘taking back control of our borders’.
Tolerance is not something which can be touted as a national trait, only to be disregarded when it comes to non-nationals. Racism is not something which is limited to to colour of someone’s skin… a culture which tolerates the vilification or abuse of another people – no matter what the nature of their otherness, is a culture which tolerates and breeds hatred. It is not possible to partition in this way – it is not OK to hate just one group. As soon as the door to regarding others as identifiable in categories is opened, the door to all arbitrary discrimination is opened.
The one thing that ‘tolerant’ societies cannot tolerate is arbitrary discrimination. For the leader of a country to fail to speak out on abuse at a national level is an unacceptable event for any society that considers itself to be tolerant. This lack of leadership can only perpetuate the very types of abuse that the Prime Minister has recently condemned.