Racism keeps happening, so why are you still surprised?

Being surprised says that you’ve been unaware of discrimination that has been happening for 100s of years

Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, three young, brilliant, Black football players missed their penalties at the Euro 2020 final and the typical response to Black folk not doing something perfectly ensued. Instantly, the three players were subject to torrents of racist abuse from those who supported them moments before. Their social media channels were literally flooded with it.

But social media was also flooded with White people lamenting how ‘shocked’ and ‘surprised’ they were. I say White people, because let’s face it, not a single Black or brown person is surprised at what happened afterwards. When Saka missed, I turned to my fiancé and prophetically said that England was going to become more toxic and that they were going to be subject to racist abuse. I’ve spoken to other Black and brown folk who all predicted the same. Let’s face it, this is the reality. A Black or brown person’s excellence provides them with a temporary break against racism.

Anyway, White people all over the UK were airing their surprise. “it’s 2021, this shouldn’t be happening”…Well damn, Karen, it shouldn’t be happening in any year. “he [Saka] is just 19” …sorry, I forgot that at 20 you become immune to racism [sarcasm]. And let’s not forgot the “I can’t believe this is happening”….well believe it. Because it’s been happening for a long time now. And it keeps happening. Like every fucking day. It. Is. Exhausting.

About 14 months ago, George Floyd’s murder sparked a new wave of understanding about police brutality and racism. But it took a Black man being murdered over the course of 9 minutes and 29 seconds for people to wake up. What about when 12-year-old Tamir Rice was murdered within 2 seconds (literally less than 2 seconds) of a police officer arriving on the scene? Perhaps that was too quick? Or what about when Philando Castille bled out in front of his girlfriend and 4-year-old daughter after being shot 5 times by a police officer?

For those in the UK, these examples might not be close enough to home. So here; the Met Police sentence 45% and 29% of White and Black folk, respectively, yet 44% of their press releases focus on Black folk (only 33% for White folk). Black folk are also 9 times more likely to face stop and searches and 2 times more likely to die in police custody than their White counterparts. I could go into other examples (~0.67% of Professors in the UK who are black or the constant racism that Boris Johnson spews), but you get the drift. Side note, if you find yourself justifying this then you’re part of the problem.

Shock and surprise are emotions in response to discovery or something unexpected. So, ask yourself, with all that is, and has been happening, why is racism new or unexpected? And let me ask you, where the fuck have you been for the last year? If this is new to you then it means you’ve been actively unaware of racism. If this shocks you then do something about it. Do not keep placing the burden on Black and brown folk to fight a system which keeps oppressing them/us.

On that note, it’s easy to keep blaming the system for racism. But racists make up the system. Racists write policies. Racists write and rewrite history. Racists develop statistics. Racists screen your job application. Racists ‘keep the peace’. These people do not exist in the shadows. Racists exist in every circle of life, including your personal ones. These are the people you need to challenge.

Let me make one last thing abundantly clear. It is not good enough to be ‘not-racist’, you must be actively anti-racist. If you are ‘not-racist’ then you are choosing to uphold a system which oppresses Black and brown folk. That is, in every single moment in which you are witness to racism and do nothing about it, you have sided with and upheld racism. So, what are you going to do about it?

Senior lecturer and researcher in exercise physiology and strength and conditioning. Active proponent and committee member of EDI in sport and academia.