Maybe I’m naïve but I've been really shocked at some of the vile racist content I've seen on social media this morning. Some of it overtly abusive and downright disturbing, some more subtle - all of it completely unacceptable.
I don’t know why I keep being surprised by this behaviour – I think it’s because in the run up to the match, everyone really did seem to come together and embrace this diverse set of lads and Gareth Southgate’s calm, understated leadership. Seeing that play out on such a vast platform made me believe we were finally getting somewhere.
But the thing is this vile undercurrent of racist, bullying, toxic behaviour never went anywhere. It was always there, under the surface. Walk into any pub and you hear it. Talk to anyone who’s not white and they’ll tell you about it. What the match did was rip the plaster off of it and expose it in all its ugliness.
It’s not just racism either – ask anyone with a disability, any woman, anyone from the LGBT+ community, or anyone who is ‘different’. They’ll almost always have a story to tell about a time when they didn’t feel safe, or were on the receiving end of someone else’s horrible behaviour. It was only on Saturday when a fellow runner shared on social media that she was called a horrible racial slur (which I won’t repeat) by a gang of lads who drove past her. I read something else about a guy who was followed from his local train station - also by a gang of young men - because he was wearing a rainbow lanyard which highlighted him as another slur I won’t repeat.
But something positive has happened too. People are calling it out more. People are showing solidarity. They’re taking it up with people’s employers; they’re reporting it, and slowly but surely, as a society we're becoming more open to ‘difference’. There will always be a hardcore of people whose behaviour won’t change. Maybe it’s the way they’ve been conditioned; maybe they have such low expectations of themselves and their prospects that bullying someone who’s an easy target is the only way they feel they’ve achieved something. I really don’t know, but I just wanted to show solidarity with anyone feeling hopeless or vulnerable. I promise that I’ll continue to call this stuff out when I can, and try to share what small platform I have to embolden those who disagree with this behaviour to stand against it in the same way the football defeat seems to have emboldened people to callously abuse the young men who played their hearts out for us last night.
Treating people who are marginalised better does not mean you'll be treated any worse - there's more enough kindness and respect to go around!