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'Colour-blind Britain'

UNITED: Messages of support for Bolton Wanderers' player Fabrice Muamba at the club’s Reebok Stadium in Bolton. (Photo: Dave Thompson/PA Wire)

A NATION united in shock and solidarity for a young boy and his very public fight for life. That was Britain on March 17 after the collapse at White Hart Lane of Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba during his team's match against Spurs.

The look of horror on the faces of those at the Tottenham ground mirrored the anguish etched on the faces of TV viewers throughout the country. Like the spectators at the ground we all willed Fabrice on and prayed for him. Nobody saw the colour of Fabrice Muamba's skin. So there's hope for us after all.

By the time I was able to find the philosophical space to ponder the nation's reaction to Muamba's collapse, I was already wondering ‘Why can't it be like this always?' Why can't we view young black men and women without seeing their colour? What a wonderful world this would be.'

Only this world has lost the innocence of that classic Louis Armstrong song. I never see the colours of the rainbow (so pretty in the sky) on the faces of people passing by. And in my neighbourhood you rarely see people going by saying ‘How do you do'.

We have, I fear, long ago lost the opportunity to live in a post-colour world. It was possible 50 years ago when it seemed like all black Britons needed was a break from the mindless violence that took the life of Kelso Cochrane in 1958, so that we could live happily ever after with our neighbours.

Fifty years ago, when the West Indian (as they called it in those days) population of Britain numbered only 172,000 and were expected to soon return to their home countries, it was possible for Britain to not see colour.

But we now live in a multi-racial Britain where the black population does not intend to go back anywhere any time soon. And too much has happened over the years.

The middle-class liberal elite who rule from dinner party tables in their inner-city and suburban enclaves, are quick to tell us that they don't see colour, and point to the token black guest they affectionately call ‘Chalky' in defence of any accusation of bias. It's no different from the Bob Marley defence that one of the convicted killers of Stephen Lawrence tried to use in court (the suggestion that liking Bob Marley is tantamount to being colour-blind).

Don't let them pull the wool over your eyes. There are times to not see colour - for example when your fellow human being is fighting for his life. And Fabrice Muamba will always be a testament to that. But when it comes to hiring and firing let's not be colour-blind. We must see racism when it rears its ugly head, and fight it.

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