Why we mustn’t let acts of racism and hate speech directed at minorities go unchecked

All English, all talented, all courageous, all deserve more respect, all deserve more gratitude for their service to English football and their contribution to society. 

I recently posted about unconscious biases and showed that we all possess them and left unchallenged, they lead us to make unhealthy decisions both for us and others.

Bringing these biases into our consciousness and awareness is the first step, but awareness without action achieves nothing. We have to replace the false beliefs with the truth. 

History teaches us that we ignore bigotry at our peril as persecution and genocide begins with small steps that escalate so that the final dreadful steps are not an enormous leap but another small step in the process. The more familiar each stage of aggression becomes, the more ‘normal’ it becomes.

The Holocaust was not an isolated act emerging out of nowhere. In 1933 Jewish businesses were boycotted, books by Jewish authors were burnt, Jewish lawyers and teachers lost their jobs. 

Two years later, in 1935, Jews were stripped of their German citizenship and all their civil and political rights.

In 1938, these systemic steps of oppression led to Kristallnacht when Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues were attacked and for the first time the people themselves were subjected to violence. 

As we now know, by the end of World War 2, millions of Jews and members of minority groups had been murdered in the worst act of genocide in history.  

For the past sixteen months since George Floyd’s murder, footballers have been taking the knee, yet black players are still subjected to racial abuse. Politicians call on social media companies to ‘do something’ while they ring their hands and pour out empty rhetoric condemning racism. Meanwhile, nothing changes. At the same time LGBT people suffer more homophobia and transphobia than ever; islamophobia and anti-Semitism are on the rise.

We can’t wait for things to change on their own because they won’t. It may seem like an enormous leap to compare today with 1930s and 1940s Europe, and I’m not suggesting anything happening today is remotely comparable to those awful atrocities. But nor was there an indication that burning books would lead to the systematic murder of millions a few years later. 

We need leadership from politicians and our communities, but individually, we have a duty to speak out and speak up. We can have a fairer, compassionate society for our children, and live in a world where difference is embraced. It will not happen if we are silent. We have to create it.

  • Shelley Bridgman

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