When people find the term ‘choc ice’ racist and offensive but not the acquitted televised ‘ironic’ rantings of a recent footballer, as a country we really are in what I hope is a temporary state of confusion (code for trouble with a capital T) about our rich multi ethnic heritage.
The ‘choc ice’ debacle, if we’re not careful will become a symbol for our national reluctance to discuss race openly and rationally. As a nation, many of us seem loathe to address our colonial past and through the back breaking (and sometimes life ending) work of its former colonies, a past that put the ‘Great’ in Great Britain (and Northern Ireland).
In fact, it is precisely our post colonial present which makes our country one of the most ethnically diverse and tolerant in the world and I’m not even talking about the significant ethnic and devolution-making dynamics between our four kingdoms; an incredibly important part of our multi ethnic history in the first place.
However, our recent colonial past did not leave with us without a sometimes-unpleasant aftertaste of postcolonial racism (and I am sure the other kingdoms would recognise elements of this in relation to the perceived denigration of their cultures).
So here we are, as actors on our most high profile and arguably the most influential cultural stage (platform) we have in this country; namely Football. It is on this stage that the debate about race and its inherent historical narratives are played out.
It is as though, as a nation we were no longer able to hold our tongues and we needed to voice our deep seated, hidden concerns about race, as stirred up by recent visible immigration and economic turbulence/decline. So, taking audience participation to the next level, we chose the national theatre of Football to air our concerns and fears, or perhaps with the line of events,
Football bid for the rights to stage this sometimes, Shakespearian tragic farce. What is wrong with that? Some people will ask. My answer to them is simply, ‘choc ice’.
To elevate ‘choc ice’ to the level of pernicious racial abuse whilst ignoring Terry ‘s acquittal and Blatter’s handshake comments amongst a litany of other race related incidents, shows that this particular arena is ill equipped to examine and reflect upon issues of racial discrimination both overt and more dangerously, covert, in that it fails to recognise the not so nuanced distinction between one term that encapsulates the feeling of betrayal and lack of solidarity against oppression as opposed to the other that is a vehicle for the said oppression.
Perhaps, I am being naive and condescending to think that this arena and its vocal proponents are intellectually ill equipped to distinguish between different types of race-related comments and equally unable to track the historical narratives behind them.
Some might say that I do them a great disservice. If I agree that I am being condescending to such people, it leads me to an even more unpleasant conclusion that such apparently willful ignorance is actually a ruse designed to obstruct or deflect intelligent debate about racism.
A ruse designed to keep the masses (as symbolised by the arena of Football) in a state of ignorance about the power dynamic between the political (ethnic) majority and the political (ethnic) minority. There seems to be a plan to keep the status quo at all costs by elevating knee jerk ‘choc ice’ reactions above the material issues of deep seated and damaging racism in our national consciousness, as expressed in our national sporting outlet.
By ‘status quo’ I mean, a position where we do not seem able to fairly address issues of tolerance, respect and protection of our minorities without pernicious ridicule using displays of unthinking ignorance about legitimate concerns. I have not even addressed the legal ruling of the moment that appears to be one national institution upholding the gate keeping duties of another in maintaining the current status quo of indifferent race relations. I suppose the ‘choc ice’ as a mascot brilliantly represents those on all sides who wish to dismantle our great diversity, rendering us a nation, powerless and fallen akin to a hairless Samson!
By Dr Ornette D Clennon, Lecturer and Research Fellow, Manchester Metropolitan University