Perspective on the racist trolls is needed to understand the extent of the problem. In fact, the most diverse team in Euro 2020 shows how far society has come
The way in which the England footballers connected with the media and the entire country was a credit to them and the environment set up by Gareth Southgate. For the first time in a long while I felt genuine pride for the way they carried themselves with a big smile, with class and how they were not afraid to be themselves. I also felt proud of our country because, in the midst of all the acusations of the last year, the football team was the most ethnically diverse it has ever been. Here was a group of guys bonded by a common goal and who loved each other dearly.
However, you may have noticed the headlines about horrible racist abuse on social media after the final in which England lost on penalties. It spawned anti-racist messages on social media, a message from Boris Johnson, and demos at Marcus Rashford’s mural in Manchester. As well-meaning as this is, the team’s diversity and brotherhood was far more ‘anti-racist’ than any of these gestures put together; the very fact that they were there is a great example of how far society has come.
I set this blog up because I have always wanted the truth instead of relying on news headlines, which increasingly focus on the tiny negative aspects of society. Therefore, with this issue, I wonder if there really was a ‘deluge’ of racist abuse as news outlets described? Was it from a very small, moronic minority? If not, then how widespread is the problem of racist abuse in England? Is the media’s appetite for bad news, amplified by social media’s echo chambers, distorting what really happened and meaning we focus too much on a tiny minority instead of the overwhelming majority of positive messages? As ever, I try and give this issue more context, for my own understanding as much as anything else. But in the process, I hope it helps some other people.
Does the England Football Team reflect the diversity of society?
The simple answer is yes, and more so. The 2011 Census found 3.4% of the people in England were described as ‘Black’. In England’s 26-man squad for Euro 2020, 13 footballers would likely have described their ethnicity as the same; that is a percentage of 38.5%. Even though it is likely the percentage of Black identifying people in England will have increased since 2011, it is highly unlikely it will be anywhere close to 38.5%, meaning that the team has a far greater proportion of black people than are present in society. For this, we should celebrate.
Rugby Union has previously received criticism for it’s more elitist image and lack of minority representation. However, in the latest England mens squad for the summer internationals, 24% would have been in the ‘Black’ category. This is still much above the actual average.
What do we know about the abuse?
I cannot find the exact figures, so I will instead rely on articles. Since the events of Sunday evening, it has been widely reported that most racist abuse came from abroad, as Gareth Southgate himself explained in his interview. The head of Kick It Out, a well-known group that campaigns against racism in football, Sanjay Bhandari, said that official Premier League data from the last two seasons of football shows around 70 per cent of abuse originates overseas.
Another study by SEMrush found that seven countries made up more than 50% of abuse; India, UAE, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Nigeria. Over the 297 instances of racial insults on social media, it found 4 (1.3%) of them came from The UK.
Twitter said it had removed over 1,000 posts which violated its anti-racism rules, and in total, just under 2,000 racist messages were sent to Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Raheem Sterling. 167 of these were considered ‘high risk’. Data science company Signify revealed this number on behalf of the PFA. To get this number, they had analysed over 850,000 tweets, meaning that 0.2% of them were abusive, which they said was much higher than the rest of the tournament combined. There were millions of comments on Instagram and Twitter, many of them of overwhelming support after the abuse they suffered on Sunday evening.
Using a high estimate of the proportion of abuse that came from the UK (30%) as is the average over the last two seasons in the Premier League, that leaves 574 racist comments and 50 ‘high risk’ messages; 0.07% and 0.005% respectively.
The millions of well-wishers that flooded social media with their messages of support outweighed the racist messages many thousand times over. To add another layer of perspective, social media is a place where sad people go to vent their angers with the world; in real life there will have been millions more people not on social media with only the best wishes for the team and black players.
To round off the article, it does feel like we as a society are listening more and more to a couple of vocal people who shout the loudest, nastiest things. I keep reading articles with headlines like ‘TV show hit by complaints for certain offensive scene’. It often turns out that the amount of complaints could be counted on one hand. It is this culture of magnifying small pieces of bad news that has become more ingrained in our society, Probably because we actually lead very safe lives. The media, especially during Covid-19, has blood on its hands for perpetuating this.
The racist abuse is unforgivable. But to use it as proof that Britain is deeply racist is also unforgivably stupid, and in some cases cunning. We must be aware that certain people in society take pleasure from making moutains out of molehills in order to further their ideology.
As society improves, we are edging closer to a place where racism does not exist. However, stamping it out completely is incredibly difficult. Murder has been outlawed for most of human existence, yet in 2021 there are still murderers in society. It may also be the case that, even in the best society, there will still be a couple of people who hate their lives so much that they turn to forms of racism and bigotry.
You only need to look at the England football team, and the Olympics to see what a greatly tolerant and diverse place Great Britain is. When we talk about racist abuse on social media, get some perspective on how many people are actually doing it.
What do you think?