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Book Review Barnes rightly goes beyond race and into class and gender

The Uncomfortable Truth About Racism
by John Barnes
Headline Publishing Group, £14.99

JOHN BARNES is a Jamaican-born black worker who, in his younger days, carried out his work in front of thousands of people.

Some people, always a minority, but a vocal one, were racist in their criticism while he was at work.

Barnes is one of the brightest football talents ever to grace the English game — regardless of the colour of his skin. He is also a black man who has had his own experiences of racism at work and chosen to deal with them in his own way.

There is no evidence in the book that Barnes ever raised his important voice at a time when black people struggled to get listened to.

Neither, as far as I can see, did he try to collectively deal with the racism he experienced either through his union, the Professional Footballers Association, or alongside other black players.

This is not a criticism. Black people all have our own experiences of racism and choose to deal with things in our own way.

Unfortunately, this confusing collection of thoughts tends to play down the levels of racism experienced by black workers in workplaces other than football and claims that institutional racism does not exist in either the police or the football “fraternity.”

Barnes rightly goes beyond race and into class and gender. However, his claims that the calls for Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick to resign when those on a peaceful vigil after the Sarah Everard killing were attacked by the police were based on her being a woman who should have shown more empathy was just wrong.

The criticisms against Dick were based on the need for her to take responsibility for her marauding officers. Which she did not.

The book is certainly wide-ranging. Barnes moves from criticising black people in the US for using the term African-Americans to railing against what he calls “black extremist” activists who want to tear down statues and “cancel white historical heroes,” as he labels them allies of the Establishment.

Barnes places himself in a middle group — in between the black radicals on one side and blacks entrenched in the system on the other.

His group, who he claims, take an objective view on race relations and understand the need, as if nobody else does, for both race and class to be addressed together.

This is an interesting book on the thoughts of a footballing icon about race. Thoughts that it has taken some time to share in print. He follows the much deeper book by another Jamaican born sporting legend, Michael Holding, in Why We Kneel, How We Rise.


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