"We're not Racist" - Twists of the Scouse-Manc debate
Anyone tiring of the Suarez racism saga? Me too, but I'm breaking radio silence to offer a few thoughts, just as Suarez serves the final week of his ban and in light of yesterday's fiercely fought battle between Liverpool and Manchester United - the second epic Soucse-Manc cup battle at Anfield this week.
You might not agree with some of this - but remember, this is an issue of opinions and loyalties...
I don't understand football as a non-participating spectator sport. But the comments offered in today's press are not about armchair fans, so I'm discounting them. I doubt a decent appreciation of the rivalry between Liverpool and United is possible until you've walked out of the away end of either ground and got the train home - and not as a one off.
The meaning of match-going fandom is intertwined with rivalry, identity and place. It's an issue of localism and tribalism. 'Language' is often employed to deny outsiders access (including fellow 'fans').
I'll let readers figure out your respective stance in that context. If you define identity as semantics only and not syntax, you miss the point. In other words, as an example, part of what it is to be a Liverpudlian is to not be an Evertonian, definitively. That has both negative AND positive consequences.
In a chant that's been building for weeks, yesterday Liverpool fans en masse sang "We're not racist, we only hate Mancs." This is a way of saying that although a minority despise Evra for being black (the now infamous non-Scouse monkey poser for example), a majority despise Evra for being representative of Mancs.
The latest saga (it used to be darts in the eye and tear gas on the team bus when I was a kid) is really a collective demonstration of that philosophy. It's tongue in cheek - we know what racism is. When one of your own puts an axe through a lad's head because he's black (Anthony Walker in 2005), and with our legacy of being the former world slaving capital, and the Toxteth riots in 1981 - and then with the popular demonisation of Scousers over the last four decades - our consciousness is heightened.
Like most of the footballing world, many fans seem to have a very narrow implied definition of race, so how are you supposed to offer valid opinions on racism? (Reading that report (or just claiming to have done) is no qualification).
Race is a subjective categorisation of human beings used in the past by imperial powers to justify subjugation of 'native' peoples and now used by the PC left (to criticise anyone who raises concerns about immigration for example). Political correctness is a disease of disproportion and distraction, and it seems many have been infected. Time to climb off the bandwagon.
Making derogatory comments about Scousers or Mancs is essentially the same as making derogatory comments about blacks and is therefore 'racism'. Through that song Liverpool fans were all being 'racist' today, but of course no one really comments on that - because racism is actually a function and expression of any football rivalry you have heard of anywhere in the world. It's not confined to skin colour.
The point many miss is that Evra is a grass. In some respects it's not about what was said between him and Suarez, or the 'right' to complain and seek 'justice'. It's about being a snitch.
Few Mancs worth their salt will respect Evra for complaining, but they will love him for contributing to Liverpool's horrific season (punctuated by some excellent results). Of course, Scousers and Mancs understand our similarities. That's why I can speak for them, and they for us in this respect. If we were talking about Glen Johnson and Wayne Rooney instead (deliberately selected examples), reactions would be similar.
Oh, and in case you think I'm a racism sympathiser, I'm not. I've travelled the world and have been battered and bruised for my skin colour, accent, race, footballing allegiances and more besides. I just loathe political correctness - and for me, the real issue concerning rivalry and hatred in contemporary 'British' fandom is the manipulation of disasters. This was my Facebook status yesterday morning: "A celebration of another club's tragedy pollutes the respectful remembrance of your own. Rise above it Scousers. Unify your standards."
© Dr. Joel Rookwood