To some people, I was, I am, and will always simply be a Ni**er!

And never have I been clearer.

It’s been about 35 years since someone actually called me a nigger, to my face.

It was in school, and I’m certain that the only reason it didn’t happen again is because I delivered the perpetrator (who I considered a friend previously), an unequivocal “manu et manu” beating. And if I had my time again, I’d do the exact same thing!

She picked the wrong girl and got her arse handed to her on a plate! My parents, who always encouraged dialogue versus physical combat, on this occasion, backed me 100%. 

That event and my response is undoubtedly why, for my remaining time in school, no one ever called me that word, to my face anyway. And in that, I also know how lucky I am, as many face the verbal and physical onslaughts, on a daily basis.

But today, I wouldn’t and can’t seek to engage in physical combat with every human being that cuts me deeply…….although I still have moments that I’d like to… today. 

Pre and post that event, I encountered; darkie, coon, wog, gollywog, “go back to your own country/where you came from, and even “monkey face” at the hands of a teacher. I shit you not.

My response at the time hid the true impact. It spoke of anger. But I was deeply hurt. The fact that I remember it today, in blow-by-blow detail, tells me how impactful the sense of betrayal and hurt truly was.

The events of the last few days and weeks have been a huge trigger for me, and in truth, on Monday morning, I was an emotional wreck.

Whilst in the last three plus decades, I’ve seen much racism, heard about even more, and observed the uprising of keyboard warriors’ thanks largely to social media, this week has been amongst the most intense and concentrated periods I can recall.

Not in my adulthood have I seen as many viciously racist posts across every social media platform!

The additional sadness for me, came from the fact that I called it. Many of us did. I could see it before it arrived. But could do nothing but watch, wait, and hope. From the start of the tournament, there was a sense (for me at least) of impending doom. It was palpable. That even whilst we were winning, in one decision, or one human error, everything could and would change. It felt inevitable.

I wanted England to win. Not because I care about the game per se, but because I knew it was the only way that the hideous, sometimes muted tones of vile, racist perpetrators, would remain so. Mute. Desperate, specifically for a player of colour, to not put a foot wrong. And as the tournament progressed, my fear grew.

When Sterling missed an opportunity in an essentially open goal against Denmark, my heart literally dropped. On all that is Holy (and I’m not even religious), please don’t let this be material.

Watching as the media world heaped a disproportionate amount of praise on some, and largely disregarded the contributions of others, the racial bias was deafening. But whilst obvious to some, for others, the pomp and ceremony, the winning, the rose-tinted specs, were in full effect.

By Sunday night, my anxiety was so bad, I switched everything off and went to bed. Whilst I knew it was only deference, I just couldn’t bear to watch it, play out in real-time. We were in extra time, with penalties looming. Literally the worst possible scenario.

The moment I opened my eyes on Monday morning, and switched back on, I realised that both the result and the fallout were worse than I even imagined.

I resisted (which was not easy), the overwhelming urge to erupt in the moment, post with all guns blazing, full of every ounce of the fury I felt as my feeds delivered more and more hateful images and screenshots. Again, I had to switch it all off and breathe.

Even the well-intentioned support, in many cases, riled me; the focus on the apparent unifying effects of the great game, the demonstration of great leadership, the amazing achievement not seen in 55 years, the references to the racists being the minority, and more. Whilst I understand the sentiment, there is little to no positivity to be taken from this tournament. The early positivity was bogus, false, hypocritical, and forced. The true colours played out latterly.

This is not a set of scales. And as such, you don’t get to heap on the positives in a way that somehow outweighs or offsets the despicable, vile, hateful actions of some. Albeit relatively a small number.

You cannot and will not be allowed to consciously or otherwise diminish or dismiss the gravity.

And before you try to “school me” on the proportion of bogus accounts, instigators, and fake news. I’m not listening. If one, is legitimate, it’s one too many! And for so many people in this country, and around the globe, today is all too representative of their day-to-day experience.

And it is overwhelming.

The below, for me, was the most shocking. The call to action, to go out and hurt people simply because of the colour of their skin….what the f*ck is this about.

I checked in on some family members, genuinely fearful, as I read reports of physical assaults on people, in the street, going about their business. Kids, being kept at home by concerned parents. People staying home.

Genuine fear. It makes me fucking furious!

The hypocrisy: when you win for us, you’re British. When you fail, you’re a nigger. Simple.

Enough is enough. The ask is nothing more than to use the tools we have available. Deploy them now! And stamp this shit out. Today. Not tomorrow!

I don’t understand how we have yet to deploy technology that we have available to us, to silence the noise of hatred.

Increased user verification is obvious, no?

Algorithms that pick up keywords, combinations (words and emojis)?

The same technology that will bring the feds to your door should you download indecent images, or “appear” to be planning an act of terrorism.

In 2011, the Police attended my daughter’s school, because a student had used the C-word in written communication, on a school PC and account, and alerted the local authority.

Twenty years later, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to question why these instances aren’t dealt with more harshly and immediately.

Formal statements saying, “We condemn the behaviour of….” are bullshit, if demonstrable action doesn’t follow swiftly. And you’ve been saying the same shit for years.

Zero tolerance is the only answer. But we have to SEE it! Not just hear about it.

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