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Race and Liverpool, Part ∞


"Listen, I’m my own man. If I have something I want to say or do then I will do it. The reason I wore the T-shirt is because I know 100 per cent Luis Suarez is not racist. He is one of the lads in the team that I get on with best of all at the club."

This is not a topic anyone wants to revisit.

It's not comfortable, it's not easy, and it's certainly not clear-cut. There are strong feelings on every side, and despite what you'll read everywhere, there's little right or wrong to be found. The closest thing we can find to right is that overt acts of racism are harmful and disgusting, because that's just sort of objectively true. But regardless of the rightness of that statement, we're ultimately left confronting the fact that we all vehemently condemn overt acts of racism and prejudice while somewhat regularly having thoughts or feelings or urges that completely contradict that, no matter how much we might try to ignore them or deny they exist. You have thoughts, they're probably kind of nasty and offensive in all sorts of ways, and you probably don't tell anyone about them, even though you know everybody else has them too and they're not talking about it either. So yeah, uncomfortable.

The continued conversation about Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra had seemed to die down after John Barnes' brilliant sequence of interviews on race and racism in both football and society. He basically extinguished the firestorm around Liverpool, at least for the time being, by pointing out what's mentioned above---yes, Liverpool had a bumpy patch when it came to race-related issues, and so does everyone else in modern society. We can all talk about how colorblind we are and how we have a black friend so that means we never think mean things (looking at you, Liverpool P.R. department), but it's just simply untrue. It was apparently a new concept for those in the media, and one that appeared to calm what had become, in Barnes' words, a crusade that saw the footballing world grant themselves as "custodians of moral value in the world."

Which is, of course, a fantastically arrogant view that we all have at times. It's nice and comforting to think that we have all the right answers, especially when other people are doing things that we can clearly point to as being offensive. It's comforting for us to shout that down and write in all caps about HOW BAD THAT IS, because it takes the focus off our own dissonance about things we share and things we shame.

Everything has picked back up with Glen Johnson's interview with the Daily Mail, though, which is typically enough to question one's character on its own merits. We can't really hold it against Glen Johnson too harshly, particularly in light of what's likely been a very difficult few months. Everyone else has the right answer for him in what's amounted to a scramble for the higher moral ground, and depending on the perspective, he's either lionized as the ultimate teammate or shouted down as a traitor to his own race. It's likely no easy task being the only player of color on a Liverpool side that's found itself firmly entrenched in a neverending cycle of news focus entirely on color.

And we can all wish this whole thing would disappear in a flaming ball of rapture, because there'd be nothing nicer than to have none of this actually exist. Selfishly, even though I know he was asked for comment by Ian Ladyman, I wish he would have brushed it off and pushed the interview in another direction. Move on, Glen. Mooooooove on. Don't look back. Punch Ladyman in the face. Run away. Hire Gob Bluth to make you disappear. Just don't talk anymore about it. EVER.

But he did, and now we're left with even more fallout on top of the fallout of an incident that's become so meta that it's hard to tell what actually has to do with what happened in the first place and what's essentially become talking just to keep talking. That's not really Glen Johnson's fault, nor Ian Ladyman's, although all parties involved had to be aware of the inevitable fracas that would ensue once the comments were published. And, for the uniniated, there wasn't exactly much middle ground:

"Luis didn’t shake his hand because Evra’s hand was down there. What else is Luis supposed to do? Would you go to shake someone’s hand if their hand is way down there by their side? Course not. But then, because Luis didn’t do it, Evra has pulled him back by his arm as he walked on, as if to say to everybody: 'Look, I wanted to shake his hand and he didn’t…'

"He’s following Luis with his eyes as if to say: 'Right he’s gone, he’s gone (past me) so I’ll pull him back now…' Evra probably stayed up all night thinking about how to do that. The whole thing was ridiculous."

So that's his opinion, in addition to everything else discussed in the interview, and it's either something to celebrate or something to condemn. It's not exactly a new train of thought---plenty have posited the theory before, and it gained plenty of steam before the avalanche of apologies that followed the 1-2 result at Old Trafford.

We can't fault him for commenting, however, and we can't fault him for his view. We can disagree or we can agree, and we can certainly type in caps lock and exclamation points about why Glen Johnson's comments are exactly what society needs or how they're just another example of what a dangerous racist communist facist socialist he is.

I mean, that's our duty as faceless anonymous beings that have no accountability for anything that we do to put forth a strongly worded opinion about what's right for other people we'll never meet, right?

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