On Sunday 12 July, Wilfried Zaha revealed on his official Twitter account that he had been subjected to racial abuse via messages sent to the player’s social media pages. It was an eye-opening social media post into the mindset of some British citizens in the 21st Century.
These messages were not only deeply saddening but the fact that the offender – who was only 12 years old – sent them anonymously highlights the faults within the younger generation. The boy, an Aston Villa fan, not only brought shame on the club but brought shame on the West Midlands region too.
Being a 15-year old Villa fan myself, I would like to apologise to Wilfried Zaha on behalf of the Villa faithful and the younger generation. As a white British male, I do not understand what it is like to receive abuse regarding the colour of my skin but I am ashamed that abuse of this nature is still apparent within British society.
Over the past few years, I have seen acts of racism conducted abroad with one memorable moment being the abuse that Tyrone Mings received from Bulgarian fans during his debut for England in a European qualifying fixture. Understandably we are quick to point out these despicable acts and the ongoing problem of racism within other countries; although realistically we also need to focus as a country on eradicating this epidemic within our own nation and not just point the finger elsewhere.
Understanding all comes down to education. According to the children’s news outlet Newsround, in 2019 there were almost 80,000 hate crimes recorded in the UK. That’s 10% more than the year before. We all have a conscience and know right from wrong however some citizens in this country are not receiving the education needed to understand this matter, potentially some even choosing to ignore it.
In order to eradicate racism within Britain, changes need to be made. For example, school curriculums. In order for future generations to gain a better understanding of black culture, receiving a more balanced education regarding race will help them work on how to create a better life for all, no matter the colour of their skin.
Back in June, an organisation called the Black Curriculum led a campaign collecting signatures for a letter to be sent to the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, calling on him to make the teaching of black history compulsory in primary and secondary schools and across a range of different subject areas.
The letter states: “Thousands of us, the British voting public, are grief-stricken and concerned about the existing status quo in the UK, which disregards the lives and contributions of black British people. Learning black history should not be a choice but should be mandatory. Our curriculum should not be reinforcing the message that a sizeable part of the British population are not valued.”
Regarding the incident involving Wilfried Zaha, West Midlands Police acted quickly tweeting hours after the incident was highlighted. The Police Force stated on Twitter that, “We were alerted to a series of racist messages sent to a footballer today and after looking into them and conducting checks, we have arrested a boy. The 12-year-old from Solihull has been taken to custody. Thanks to everyone who raised it. Racism won’t be tolerated.”
Anyone that displays any message of hate towards any race or a xenophobic, sexist or severely offensive remark in any manner, should rightly be met with the full force of the law. Aston Villa also responded to Zaha’s tweet stating, “We deplore the disgusting racist messages sent to Wilfried Zaha. We condemn all forms of racial discrimination and stand with Crystal Palace Football Club. We are working with the police in investigating this extremely serious matter and when the culprit is identified AVFC will issue a lifetime ban.”
During these tough times, people are starting to take a more serious stance towards racism and the passion to eradicate these disgusting acts is becoming more prevalent by the day. Hopefully for years to come, incidents such as Wilfried Zaha’s will become less apparent and through education, the world can start to become an equal place full of opportunities for all. For now, to see the work that West Midlands Police and clubs such as Aston Villa are doing to deter this behaviour is a promising sign for the future.
I will leave you with this positive message from children’s news outlet Newsround.
If you’ve experienced racism, you shouldn’t keep it to yourself. There are lots of websites where you can find help and advice. On its website, Show Racism the Red Card says: “If you think someone is being unfair to you or is bullying you because of your race or colour, you should tell somebody as soon as possible.” This could be your parents, a teacher or another adult that you trust. Remember, being racist is against the law and your teacher or parents may choose to get the police involved.
The children’s charity, Childline, says it’s really important you stay safe: “If someone is being racist towards you, walk away to keep safe and don’t retaliate or respond.” Adding to this advice, SRTRC, say: “Even though you might want to, you shouldn’t rise to the problem. Answering back or getting into fights will only make things worse. Instead, try to get help and talk to someone about it.”
By Liam Bryan
Photo: Tim Keeton, AP