In the wake of England’s loss to Italy last Sunday in the Euro 2020 final, social media platforms were filled with racist messages and posts directed at three black players in England’s football team. Despite the widespread public and official denunciation campaign against the online racist wave, it has raised a few thorny and complex questions.
Does online racism reflect an imbalance in the performance of state institutions, especially in the education sector in its early stages? Or does it reflect a dysfunction in the management and control of social media platforms?
Is verbal denunciation by officials sufficient? Will this verbal denunciation accompany or be followed by practical measures inside the relevant institutions? Is the existing legislation adequate to criminalise racism and prosecute racists? What is the relationship between the rise of populism and far-right in Europe, on the one hand, and the revival of racism on the other hand?
Historically, Britain has been a haven for refugees and escapees from the inferno of religious and ethnic wars that were taking place in Europe and elsewhere. Jane Robinson explains in her book ‘Seeking Sanctuary, A History of Refugees in Britain’ that since 16th century Britain was a sanctuary for those who fled from the hell of religious wars in south and west Europe. For example, Karl Marx was expelled from Paris because of his views and moved to London in 1849 to live there the rest of his life. Diversity is one of the hallmarks of contemporary British society.
But the question that arises strongly in this context: Is Britain’s rich historical legacy of tolerance and diversity matched by another rich legacy in legislation that combat racism and discrimination? In other words, are the existing laws and legislation that prohibit and criminalise racism in Britain sufficient or does they need to be renewed? Are the existing laws and legislation adequate, or should other legislation and laws be added that are commensurate with the size and nature of contemporary challenges in this field? Are the mechanisms for implementing the old (current) laws and legislation regarding fighting racism in Britain proportional to the current circumstances, or do they need to be updated and modernised?
Stefano Fella and Carlo Ruzza answer to these questions to a certain extent in their book ‘Anti-Racist Movements in the EU Between Europeanisation and National Trajectories’. They state that “The United Kingdom has been generally identified as a leader in the development of anti-racist legislation. Specific anti-racist legislation was first introduced in the 1960s and developed further in the 1970s”. Considering the date of the issuance of the first anti-racism legislation in Britain and the date of the amendment that followed, we conclude that racism has been criminalised in Britain not very long ago. The second fact is that no new legislation and laws against racism have been issued since 1960, which may reflect a legislative defect in this regard. Note that thousands of racist incidents have occurred during the last two decades in Britain and Europe, which requires the adoption of more stringent laws and regulation.
If the rise of far-right has become the new normal for Europe, this does not mean that racism should become normal and commonplace. It is true that we do not live in ideal or angelic societies as long as we live on the earth. But civilised countries should not fail for a moment to combat racism and prosecute racists on the basis of reviewing old (existing) legislation in this regard and adding new legislation which should be more compatible with the times.
The wide-ranging official and public sympathy with the three players in England’s football team who were subjected to a fierce racist attack on the internet is not enough. What is required is to prosecute the owners of these racist posts and to shed more positive light on the three competent players in more than one way, whether by officials or institutions. We must not forget that historically racism was the nucleus and the foundation stone of Nazism and Fascism. Therefore, combating racism must turn into an essential part of the culture and general tasks of the state and society, not into a seasonal or temporary work. levant
by: Jwan Dibo levant