‘White football managers lose their jobs for bad performances but not as quickly as black managers’

Former footballer and manager John Barnes shares his views on what needs to be done to tackle racism inside and outside of the sport

REPRESENTATION: Doncaster Rovers manager Darren Moore, left, and former Brighton & Hove Albion manager Chris Hughton

I DIDN’T didn’t lose my job at Tranmere because I was black. Other black managers didn’t lose their jobs because they were black, they lost their jobs because they lost too many games.

However, they did lose their jobs quicker than their white counterparts because they were black, and that is how the most insidious, pernicious and dangerous forms of racism and unconscious racism work.

White football managers lose their jobs for bad performances also, but not as quickly as black managers with the same disappointing results. More importantly, they are given repeated opportunities regardless of their previous failures, not many black managers get that opportunity.

This is when unconscious bias – learned social stereotypes about different groups – influences our thoughts without us even being aware.

It affects us all. If Pep Guardiola left Manchester City tomorrow, and two people were given the opportunity to take over and neither had any experience or history with football and one was white, the other was from an ethnic minority background, who would we have more faith in?

“We get defensive if we are accused of being racist”

If the ethnic minority applicant played at a higher level, was more qualified and had a better CV, most if not all would choose him. But not knowing anything about either person, our initial presumption on them would be that the white candidate would be better, because of what we have been conditioned to think.

I prefer to use the term racial bias, as opposed to racist, because we get defensive if we are accused of being racist. I’m sure we can accept that we are all, to some extent, racially biased based on numerous examples like the one above.

One of my biggest gripes for years, is the discussion over what’s more important, trying to stop racism in football, or stopping it in society?

Whether it be racist incidents at home or abroad, it is obvious that we like to come down hard on the likes of Bulgaria and Serbia and convince ourselves that this is the answer to getting rid of racism, and once we deal with incidents like that, everything will be fine.

Raheem Sterling is a wonderful footballer and a great person. People think I criticise him, but I don’t.

He has his advisors who help to frame his thoughts on the issue of racism and for the most part he’s done a good job.

He has the voice I never had. Myself and others couldn’t talk about racism and call it out like he does.

He has power and influence to make real change. He should take some of those kids he took to the FA Cup final into a press conference and highlight the fact that in their community they aren’t being given an equal opportunity when it comes to social, educational, or vocational training.

Society, the local council, government will have to listen, and be forced to act, as that will be on the front pages of the newspapers – not how terrible it is in Bulgaria because a black player was abused.

‘Stadium bans are not the answer’

Racist football fans, or racists generally, are also victims alongside the people they abuse.

They are victims of a lie told to them about different groups of people and their worth.

They are victims of the lie told to them of their superiority over different groups of people.

Banning these people from football stadiums isn’t going to stop them being racist, they will just exercise their racism in a different way.

“Change and challenge the environment and you will see an improvement”

I suggest, educating them as to why it’s not only wrong to feel the way they do, but also why it’s understandable because of the unconscious conditioning they’ve had – as we all have.

Those that abuse footballers, or anybody else, were not born that way. I never blame the individual for what he does, I blame the environment he’s been brought up in to make him think the way he does.

Just like some young black men who get caught up in knife crime. Yes, there are criminals, and bad black youths, but there are also some who feel lost and afraid and feel they don’t have a choice because of the situation they find themselves in.

Change and challenge the environment and you will see an improvement.

There are dozens of incidents of racist abuse at football stadiums that we focus on. But how much more detrimental to the black community are incidents of people crossing the street when they see group of black youths, shopkeepers keeping a special eye on black customers, people being stopped and searched at airports, black people being denied jobs?

So what’s the solution for a better more productive community, one where equal opportunities should be expected and demanded?

Leaders in this country talk about more black managers, more recognition at the Oscars, Brit awards, black journalists, doctors, lawyers and all this would help the black community because these things should be among the aspirations of our black youths.

Yes, there is racism in football, and bias against black singers and actors when awards are given out, but what is much more important is the lack of opportunities and discrimination against people in the black community, and we demand change.

Until we all accept that we are unconsciously biased, we can’t come up with a solution to the problem.

Instead, we’ll just wait for some fool to be caught abusing someone, come down hard on him and then wait for the next one to come along.

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