Show Racism the Red Card visited Blackburn Rovers's training ground to speak to our newest patron, Jason Roberts.
Show Racism the Red Card visited Blackburn Rovers's training ground to speak to our newest patron, Jason Roberts. This interview will form part of a new anti-racism educational DVD.
Did you ever come across racism when you were growing up?
I was brought up in a very Afro-Caribbean neighbourhood, so there wasn’t much racism there. The first time I encountered it was playing football, where I came out of that environment and I was one of only a couple of black guys in a team.
What would your advice be to a young person who is suffering from racism?
I think they need to tell the relevant authorities. I know it may be hard not to take matters into their own hands, that is something that the individual has to think about, but I think the correct way to deal with it would be to go and tell someone who is in charge.
Do you think that people who have settled in Britain from other countries have added to British culture?
Without a doubt, multiculturalism in this community has allowed us to encounter different things and has allowed different cultures to thrive. I think the whole experience of living in Britain now would be poorer without all the people who have made their way to our shores.
Do you think football is a good example of people from different cultures coming together?
When you look at the different nationalities and ethnicities involved in football, I think it brings diversity to another level really. Different cultures have different things that they bring to the table and it is such a multicultural game now, with different people involved from different places in the world – it definitely makes the game richer and it brings a different flavour to our leagues.
I believe our leagues are the best in the world, so to have people from all over the globe really adds something to it.
Do you think that multicultural nature of football in this country is a good example to the rest of society?
I think the way football has integrated itself over the past 20 years can be a great example to everyone. We still have issues, we still have things we need to tackle but, as a marker, I think football has done a great job in trying to welcome different cultures and people. There are still some bridges that need to be built and things to improve on, but certainly people look at football and see that it is something that brought people together.
I think a lot of people who had certain views have changed them over time, what with the years of people of different nationalities and races playing in their teams. Like I said, there is still a way to go but it is certainly something to be applauded.
How do you feel about people using racist words to describe themselves?
That’s a hard cultural issue and I think some people try to take the negative and turn it into a positive. There are certain words, as an adult, I wouldn’t use because I don’t like it to be said in that way, but I understand and respect the right of people to use those particular things amongst themselves, if that is the way they feel about their experiences.
I also understand that it makes some people feel comfortable, but that is the way some people feel about it. Personally, it doesn’t offend me but it is not something I choose to do myself.
What role do you think the media plays with people forming racist beliefs?
I think it has a huge role to play; the understanding that it is not acceptable in our communities and society, is something that needs to be upheld within the media. I believe it has done a pretty good job and some of the issues that have been raised by the media have been good.
At the same time, it is a responsibility that shouldn’t be taken lightly and I think it should always be focussed that the media has a huge role to play in terms of the way people view and treat each other.
What do you think about claims of the media not telling the full and honest truth about certain groups in society – footballers included?
I think it is such a touchy subject, in terms of with the way stories are portrayed and people are perceived. It is certainly something that people have to be very wary about – the way that they make judgements about whole sections of society through one person’s beliefs or actions. I think we have to very cautious when we look at a group of people and put them in one box because of what another person might have or might not have done.
There is a lot of anti-Muslim feeling in the media at the moment – have you ever had a Muslim team mate and how do you think media stereotypes stand up to your experiences?
I have played with many Muslim players and, to a man, I have found them to be fantastic professionals, very good at what they do and very focussed on what they do within the confines of their religion. They are people I respect very much and the ones that I have come across have been very devout in their beliefs, but nevertheless have worked tirelessly to be the best footballers they can be.
There has never been a problem with me and any of the players I have played with. I very much respect their beliefs and beliefs system – neither have ever been a problem for me or any dressing room I have been a part of.
What are your views on people being called ‘black’ or ‘coloured’?
I guess it must be hard for everyone to keep up with what the acceptable terms are but, from my point of view, black is the way I have always been happy to be portrayed. I have never heard anybody around me say that they prefer the use of the word ‘coloured’ – I know there was a time when coloured was the accepted term, but things move on and I think black is the acceptable term at this minute in time.
Can you think of a time when racism was perhaps deemed acceptable?
No I can’t and I don’t think racism form anyone is acceptable in any way, shape or form. There are ways that humour is used to bring certain things up but I certainly don’t think think that race is something to be spoken about in that manner, it is something that is very emotive and I think it should be left alone.
For varying reasons, many people are afraid to report racism. What advice would you give to people who suffering from racist abuse and are afraid to come forward and why is it so important that they do?
I think it’s important to stand up to it and make it an issue; if something has happened to your it is easy to sweep it under the carpet and think ‘I just don’t want to be the one to bring it up or be the one to call it out’. I think if you are not coming forward then you are doing a disservice to the next person who might have to deal with what you’ve been through and you are allowing the person who has given out the abuse to believe that his or her view is ok.
It is not ok in modern society and it is not something we should accept; it is not something that should be allowed to happen. So as much as it might put a burden on you, people have gone before you and have had to put up with my harsher things. It is what you need to do – if something like that happens it needs to be reported and made an issue of.
Is racism different from other kinds of bullying, for example making fun of someone because or their hair colour?
No level of bullying or that sort of banter is ok, but it is very different when race comes into it. This is because of the history of black culture where people have been persecuted and murdered – there are still feelings that are raw over the issue.
Anyone who is black knows how it feels when you talk about something that has hurt so many people and so many generations before you. At the same time, it can targeted on many other cultures – like Indians or Muslims – and I think it is something that brings up a lot of strong emotions about the past. People need to think long and hard when they mention these things.
If you could give one bit of advice to somebody with racist attitudes, what would it be?
I’m not really sure what advice I would give them; I think it is for their conscience to decide whether that is the correct view. For a lot of people it doesn’t come from them but come from their family, or maybe it comes from something that happened to them?
Something for them to think about is whether you can throw everyone in the same box because of your life experience.
What advice would you give somebody that had a family with racist ideas?
Well you just need to ask them to look in their own heart and decide whether some people deserve to be meshed together in one particular box because of what some person has said.
Sometimes your family or parents might have outdated views and it is up to you as a young adult to look at those views and decide what you think is right. You need to decide how you want to live your life and what the things are that you believe.
A huge thank you to Jason Roberts for this interview and to Blackburn Rovers FC for their support.
Transcript by Brendan Simpson