Look, black is beautiful, black is excellent
Black is pain, black is joy, black is evident
It's workin' twice as hard as the people you know you're better than
'Cause you need to do double what they do so you can level them
Those are the opening lyrics of the track ‘Black’ by Dave, one of the best, most meaningful, thought-provoking, powerful pieces of music of recent years.
There’ll be mentions for Michael Jordan and John Barnes in this column, but it’s not really about sport. No apologies for that.
It’s long overdue, but now really is the time for societies across the world to address their endemic racism.
As Jordan said in a recent interview: ‘Face up to your demons. Extend a hand. Understand the inequalities.’
The basketball legend voiced the pain felt by African-Americans, which has exploded into widespread anger after George Floyd died in Minneapolis, pleading ‘I can’t breathe’ as an astonishingly unemotional policeman knelt on his neck. For almost nine minutes.
“We [African-Americans] have been beaten down for so many years,” said Jordan.
“It sucks your soul. You can’t accept it any more. This is a tipping point. We need to make a stand. We’ve got to be better as a society regarding race.”
That goes for Britain and Ireland too.
Black is bein' strong inside and facing defeat
Poverty made me a beast, I battled the law in the streets
The Conservative Party keeps giving its own warped lessons in equality, showing that certain non-whites can be just as sociopathic and morally bankrupt as some white people. Step forward the Home Secretary Priti Patel, for example.
Her own father fled to Britain from Uganda to avoid persecution of Asians by Idi Amin yet, like many other Tories, she expressed more concern about a statue being dumped into the Bristol Channel than the murder of a man, or the issue which motivated the protestors.
History shouldn’t be erased – but nor should it be covered up, or only told partially. However, removing a statue glorifying a slave trader, a statue erected in 1895 for God’s sake, 174 years after his death, shouldn’t concern anyone with a shred of humanity.
History should be put into context, considered in the light of progress, even if the spotlight shone from the 21st century may seem harsh – yet attempts to tell the truth about Edward Colston on his statue were blocked even in recent years.
GAA clubs named after John Mitchel, the Irish nationalist who was also a proud public supporter of slavery and even advocated re-opening the slave trade, should at least have the conversation about whether or not they want to bear his name.
Many more, and more important, changes are needed, of course.
‘What more do they want?’ wonder right-wingers about black protestors.
Nothing more than you have. Equal treatment before the law. Equal opportunity.
Not to be automatically considered suspect, a thief or a rapist or a murderer or a drug dealer.
Black is bein' guilty until proven that you're innocent
Then there’s the odious ‘whataboutery’ of, for example ‘What about Justine Damond?’, a white woman killed by an African-American policeman, also in Minneapolis, in 2017.
How about: that was all over the news too, including on the BBC;
How about: her killer was convicted, sentenced to more than 12 years in prison, and her family paid $20million in compensation;
How about asking how many white cops have been convicted for killing a black person? And as a percentage of all such incidents?
An example of a white person being killed by a trigger-happy cop doesn’t negate the numbers of murdered black people in the USA, year upon year, disgrace upon disgrace.
A kid dies, the blacker the killer, the sweeter the news
And if he's white you give him a chance, he's ill and confused
If he's black he's probably armed, you see him and shoot
‘Black Lives Matter’ is about police brutality, giving the lie to the racist ‘All Lives Matter’ BS merchants; if only their claim were true.
Police brutality is mostly directed against African-Americans in the USA. The death of George Floyd is, hopefully, as Michael Jordan suggests, a tipping point.
A turning point, with the debate widened into how society treats black, brown, all non-white people.
Not just in America, but in Ireland and Britain too.
Armagh footballer Jemar Hall told my colleague Andy Watters at the weekend about the racist abuse he has received on GAA and soccer pitches.
The Forkhill clubman quite rightly mentioned education in schools – but most life lessons are learned at home, and not just in these days of home schooling.
Children have to be taught to hate.
Instead of bringing up racists, parents need to raise anti-racists.
Tell your kids:
Don’t judge anyone by their skin colour.
Don’t look down on the next person, or anyone, simply because they’re a different hue to you.
I love that my son goes to a primary school with a wide range of ethnicities and nationalities represented there.
We gave him and his sister Yoruba names to keep their Nigerian heritage always with them.
No one might notice that they’re one-quarter black, but they are, and we’ll teach them to be proud of that.
We’ll teach them to respect the law – as long as it respects them, and everyone else, too.
Sport can lead change in society, but it needs better leaders than American football’s NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who finally realised four years on that they were wrong to prohibit peaceful protests about police killings of African-Americans. Yet Goodell still couldn’t even name-check the heroic Colin Kaepernick, who was frozen out of the sport for his stance.
Never mind ‘taking a knee’, Goodell should be told to take a reddener – and then take a long walk off a short plank, you repugnant man.
Everyone needs to look in the mirror.
Former Liverpool and England soccer star John Barnes is a challenging, at times controversial, commentator on racism, making the point that it’s a far wider problem in society than many care to admit.
Avoidance does not help. Barnes tells of ex-team-mates who say to him ‘I don’t see you as black’ – to which he replies ‘What do you see then? I am black’.
Everyone needs to open their eyes and be honest – and decent.
Only then will racism begin to be eradicated.