Vile racism is alive and kicking in our society

What surprised me most about the vile racist abuse against Norwich City youngster Tom Adeyemi at Liverpool's Anfield ground on Friday was that anybody was surprised by it.

To all you ostriches out there, you need to extricate your head from the sand and realise that football has not eradicated racism.

That is not through a lack of effort: the Kick it Out initiative has been wonderfully well co-ordinated and has received genuine and determined support from clubs, players and fans' groups.

But football will always have a problem with racism.

That is because football teams and football crowds are a cross-section of society and, therefore, reflect the petty prejudices that exist.


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If casual (such a trivial word for a deadly serious act) racists exist on your street, in the pub and in your workplace, there's a fair chance that they will be among a Carrow Road crowd of 26,500 people.

So will the homophobes, the sexists, the people who like to fight and those who cannot open their mouths without pouring forth a torrent of filthy language.

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In the not-too-distant past, I had a season ticket in the lower Barclay Stand and sat uncomfortably close to a man who regularly abused black players from opposing teams.

I should have reported him. But I, like many others, was too worried about what might happen to me to do anything about it.

I also often cringe as I sit with my two sons in the upper River End and listen to the disgusting language used by people sitting near to us, who often are with their own children.

Meanwhile, hundreds or even thousands of people join forces to sing obscene songs aimed at the referee, an opposition player, a manager or Ipswich Town (yes, having searched my soul, I conclude that even this is wrong).

The situation is mimicked at every football ground in the UK.

When a moron racially abused Adeyemi on Friday, it was not – as some people suggested on social networking sites – 'typical Scousers' or 'a demonstration that Liverpool is a racist football club'.

It was also not a demonstration that this intelligent, articulate Norfolk lad was 'too soft', and 'has obviously never played in front of a big crowd before'.

It was a demonstration of the fact that there is still a great deal of work to be done to root out sick attitudes that continue to bring a dose of the Dark Ages to the 21st century.

They are attitudes that are often propagated at home, as a racist parent passes on their narrow-mindedness to their children.

And they are attitudes that grow because they are allowed to.

How many times have you shuffled uncomfortably but said nothing when a friend, colleague or acquaintance has casually introduced a racist or bigoted comment into a conversation? Personally, I've lost count.

We don't challenge the comments because there is a risk of losing a friend or gaining an enemy. We prefer a quiet, harmonious life.

And because so many of us haven't got the backbone to confront a racist, the environment that created such attitudes is allowed to thrive unchecked.

And the result is the sort of the appalling abuse suffered by Tom Adeyemi.

•This article was first published on January 10, 2012.

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