July 15, 2021 Abdul Haqq

England (Black)Out!


  1. Blackout:
  • To become unconscious, also;
  • A failure of an electrical supply
  1. Black Bastard:
  • Racist epithet targeting people of colour, also;
  • Used to describe an officer of the police service of Northern Ireland (formerly Royal Ulster Constabulary – RUC)[1]

England’s historic achievement of reaching the final of Euro 2020 will be remembered for the wrong reasons; namely, the aftermath following the missed penalties of some of this country’s finest young black talent:

“…an ugly eruption of racist gibes against some of its black players was a reminder that not everyone glories in the diverse portrait of the country that this team reflects.” [2]

In fact, many are calling out and condemning those in the seats of government, like Boris Johnson, Priti Patel and other members of the Conservative ‘nasty party’ for stoking the flames of racism or at least belittling continuing efforts against this insidious disease. England footballer Tyrone Mings was correct to criticise Patel over her ugly remarks regarding the national team taking the knee before each game:

“You don’t get to stoke the fire at the beginning of the tournament by labelling our anti-racism message as ‘Gesture Politics’ [and] then pretend to be disgusted when the very thing we’re campaigning against, happens…” [3]

The current Home Secretary’s apparent dislike for black people is latent and something seldom addressed in the media. This is disconcerting in view of her previous positions – or lack thereof – regarding black minorities. Supporters may refer to her position and reaction to ensure descendants of the Windrush generation received compensation following their appalling treatment at the hands of present and previous governments; however, one needn’t look too far to witness complaints of ‘systemic mismanagement’ in the failure to adequately address this issue.[4] Perhaps one explanation for her unpleasantness in this regard is her upbringing and experiences under former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. Her parents managed to emigrate from Uganda to Britain prior to the mass expulsion of Asians in 1972.[5] Despite their success on arrival in Britain, one can only imagine the type of loathing and resentment Patel may have felt as a child at institutionalised racism meted out to her family at the time. Her current position therefore serves to mask such inherent prejudices; however, one would have thought that, in contrast, she would have been imbued with empathy for UK minorities as a result of her own possible experiences.

Without digressing much further, the prime minister’s hypocrisy is well established, so suffice it to reference his initial refusal to condemn supporters who decided to boo England players taking the knee prior to each game[6] before witnessing his latest chameleonic change to lambast culprits behind the latest abuse of black players by stating:

“To those who have been directing racist abuse at some of the players, I say shame on you and I hope you will crawl back under the rock from which you emerged.” [7]

Remember, this is the same individual who once referred to black people as ‘piccaninnies with watermelon smiles’.[8]

Blackouts vs. Blacks Out

Among the worst blackouts the UK faced in recent years was the one caused by the Great Storm of 1987. Some may recall the now infamous assurances of weatherman Michael Fish at the time; “Don’t worry, there isn’t a hurricane on the way!” Hurricane winds subsequently destroyed 15 million trees, damaging countless electricity cables while plunging 1.5 million households into darkness.[9] Today, in contrast to the cavalier attitude of a weatherman, we have the inept approach of a journeyman in the guise of a prime minister. Reflecting further back into the early 70s, yet fewer will recount the miners’ strike when power shortages resulted in the Conservative party of the time declaring a state of emergency on 9th February 1972.[10] The following excerpt recaptures the prevailing climate, which is fascinating when comparing it with today’s environment:

“[Prime minister] Heath lacked the bedside manner to allay public anxieties about these symptoms: strikes, street violence, terrorism, permissiveness and the calamitous effect of inflation on fixed incomes and pensions. Even the failure of England to qualify for the 1974 World Cup, eight years after winning the trophy, seemed to signify a more general malaise. “As is so often the case,” wrote the Daily Mirror‘s sports pundit Peter Wilson, “we have been content to dwell in the past and rest complacently on past triumphs until events – and other nations – overtake and surpass us.” [11]

If the continuing diatribe and racist abuse toward our sporting heroes is any indication of how far society has progressed since the 1970s, we have either regressed or not advanced very much at all. Street violence (knife crime in particular), terrorism and yes, permissiveness all contribute, together with racism, towards our societal backwardness.  So, what can remedy these diseases? Since the focus of this piece is on racism, reference will now be made to conversations taking place across various platforms – both public and private – regarding possible short and long-term solutions to the immediate issue surrounding racism in sports, football in particular. The idea of black players boycotting playing for England is an interesting one inasmuch as making a united and emphatic statement to the required authorities in sports, government and media that the status quo is no longer tenable, let alone acceptable. Black sportsmen and women should no longer have to ‘shut up and dribble’. As the title of Guardian columnist, Owen Jones, emphasises: ‘England’s footballers speak for the new generation better than any politician.[12]

Another idea that is slightly more radical than the first is for black players to completely eschew playing for England and instead, represent their parents’ mother countries. This is likely to receive a mixed reception and possible resistance from many detractors, including players themselves who, like many of us, consider ourselves intrinsically British since birth.

My thoughts fall in between the two above-mentioned ambits. An England B team could be established – B denoting Black: The England Black Team. This would comprise all black professionals, including other players of colour and white counterparts who are prepared to participate in this unique tapestry that would also be proactively supported and shielded from the present toxic influence of various agencies that have so far failed the sport, its players and fans. Lifetime bans would be in place for particular politicians and parasitical sponsors seeking to exploit the team and its players. Football matches would be stopped immediately in the event of players being subjected to racist chants and upon identifying the source, lifetime bans issued in conjunction with criminal proceedings. And we should not overlook the official logo: Three Lions; after all, they originated in Africa so its prudent that the team continue to have them emblazoned on their kit.[13] The current England team could replace its existing logo with any of the animals indigenous to the country, such as the Wood Mouse, Little Owl, Red Squirrel or Common Shrew to name a few…[14] Nevertheless, a question then arises regarding the consequences of putting such ideas into practice.

White Rage: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

“…the trigger for White Rage, inevitably, is black advancement. It is not the mere presence of black people that is the problem; rather, it is blackness with ambition, with drive, with purpose, with aspirations, and with demands for full and equal citizenship. It is blackness that refuses to accept subjugation, to give up.” [15]

In the event that these seemingly radical ideas become a reality, it is unlikely the vitriol and racist abuse will abate. I recall, during my footballing days at the predominantly white secondary school attended (as the only black student in my class), being a regular member of the main ‘A’ team. My speed and athleticism at the time earned me the position of left-winger. On one occasion when classmates scheduled an after school informal match, I declined the request to participate as it was not a formal game for the school. The following morning, a classmate who had participated in the game confronted me as the team had lost.  Later that afternoon during lunchtime, he confronted me again, this time with a group of his friends, remonstrating as to why I did not attend the previous evening’s game. A fight ensued.

The above incident was clearly microsmic due to its local context, however, what became immediately clear to me at the time – and I have witnessed it among professional sports personalities of colour on numerous occasions – is that they are caught between a rock and a hard place, so to speak: If they participate and are perceived to have made a mistake, they are marginalised or subjected to macro or microagressions, and if they abstain, (Naomi Osaka’s abstention from the Wimbledon Championships comes to mind), the outcome is the same or similar.


The glossary at the beginning of this article provided two definitions for blackouts, one caused due to a physiological condition and the other, a systematic technical anomaly. Both are applicable in this instance when considering the failure at governmental and societal levels to adequately address the issue of racism that continues to minimise the overwhelmingly positive contributions of those frequently targeted by it. The lack of consciousness, not to mention conscientiousness, toward these minorities is reprehensible, especially from a society that lauds itself for its multiculturalism.

Remaining with the glossary, the two definitions for black bastard are interesting insofar as they provide distinct negative connotations. Having said this, the racial epithet is easily rejected and/or deflected while assuming ownership of the term ‘black’ due to its positive connotations of excellence. Marcus Rashford eloquently articulated this in his response to the abuse he was subjected to following the Euro 2020 final:

“I’m Marcus Rashford, 23-year-old black man from Withington and Wythenshawe, South Manchester. If I have nothing else I have that… I’ll be back stronger. We’ll be back stronger.” [16]

In concluding this piece, it is important to note that there also exist epithets that reflect the reality of those that advocate, tacitly support or issue racist abuse. Among them is a well-known phrase: ignorant bastard. Such a descriptor can be directed towards those failing to either acknowledge or recognise that:

“…not only did today’s humankind begin in Africa but that all humankind is born and descended from a black woman, i.e. an African woman.” [17]





[1] https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=black%20bastards

[2] Reccine, C: ‘After Defeat, England’s Black Soccer Players Face a Racist Outburst,’ The New York Times, 12th July 2021: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/12/world/europe/england-european-championships-racism.html

[3] CNN: ‘Tyrone Mings calls out UK Home Secretary Priti Patel over ‘gesture politics’ comment on taking the knee,’ CNN, 13th July 2021: https://edition.cnn.com/2021/07/13/football/tyrone-mings-priti-patel-racism-spt-intl/index.html

[4] Gentleman, A: ‘Independent body should run Windrush compensation scheme, Labour says,’ The Guardian, 21st June 2021: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/jun/21/independent-body-should-run-windrush-compensation-scheme-labour-says

[5] Dawood, F: ‘Ugandan Asians dominate economy after exile,’ BBC News, 15th May 2016: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-36132151

[6] MacInnes, P: ‘Boris Johnson refuses to condemn fans booing England taking the knee,’ The Guardian, 7th June 2021: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2021/jun/07/boris-johnson-refuses-to-condemn-fans-booing-england-taking-the-knee

[7] Makoni, A: ‘Boris Johnson tells those racially abusing England stars to ‘crawl back under rock,’ The Standard, 13th July 2021: https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/england-boris-johnson-prime-minister-gareth-southgate-b945399.html

[8] Bienkov, A: ‘Boris Johnson says his articles calling black people ‘piccaninnies’ with ‘watermelon smiles’ and gay men ‘bumboys’ were ‘wholly satirical,’ Business Insider, 30thJune 2019: https://www.businessinsider.com/boris-johnson-defends-his-offensive-articles-about-black-and-gay-people-2019-6

[9] RMD: ’Seven of the worst power outages in the UK,’ RMD Specialist Facility Solutions: https://www.ukconstructionmedia.co.uk/press-releases/seven-worst-power-outages-uk-rmd/ Accessed on 15th July 2021

[10] Ibid

[11] Wheen, F: ‘State of Emergency: The Way We Were: Britain, 1970-1974 by Dominic Sandbrook,’ The Observer, 26th September 2010: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/sep/26/state-of-emergency-dominic-sandbrook

[12] Jones, O: ‘England’s footballers speak for the new generation better than any politician.’ The Guardian, 14th July 2021: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jul/14/england-footballers-new-generation-britain-progressive-young-

[13] Foote, C: ‘Ancient DNA reveals the lion’s past and (perhaps) future,’ BMC, 8th April 2014: https://blogs.biomedcentral.com/bmcseriesblog/2014/04/08/ancient-dna-reveals-the-lions-past-and-perhaps-future/

[14] https://www.google.com/search?q=indigenous+animal+ro.england&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en-sa&client=safari

[15] Anderson, C: ‘White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide,’ Bloomsbury

[16] BBC: ‘Marcus Rashford: England Striker ‘won’t apologise for who he is after receiving racist abuse,’ BBC News, 13th July: 2021: https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/57814154

[17] Assala, K: ‘Lupita Nyong’o’s DNA Confirms Mankind was born of an African woman,’ Africa News, 3rd December 2020: https://www.africanews.com/2020/12/01/lupita-nyong-o-s-dna-confirms-humankind-was-born-of-an-african-woman/ accessed, 15th July 2021

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