Which of these would you say is the more admirable black role model
a) Baron (Herman) Ouseley, former chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, holder of thirteen honorary degrees from the Universities of Edinburgh, Sheffield Hallam, Bradford, Leicester, Leeds Met., Warwick, Oxford Brookes, Greenwich, Southbank, London Metropolitan, North East London, Staffordshire and Brighton; founder of Kick It Out (which campaigns against racism in football); elevated to the House of Lords in 2001 for his services to something or other.
b) Mario Balotelli, bad boy footballer (of Ghanaian extraction); Liverpool striker; notorious for getting into all sorts of trouble – eg goading his then-team Inter Milan by appearing on TV in a rival AC Milan strip; driving into a women’s prison because he wanted a look round; posing in photos with Mafiosi; denying paternity of his own daughter; accidentally destroying his home with fireworks; and, most recently, being criticised by people including Lord Ouseley and threatened with a ban by the Football Association for sending out an Instagram message involving his cartoon near-namesake Super Mario featuring the phrase “jumps like a black man, grasps like a Jew.”
The answer is a no brainer. It’s b) obviously.
Mario Balotelli is a massive talent who got to the highest levels of football through skill, determination and hard work. That’s why he now earns six million Euros a year – which is all the more impressive given his humble origins. The son of poor Ghanaian immigrants to Italy he was subsequently adopted by a white couple. His adoptive mother is Jewish and lost many relatives in the Holocaust. In Italy he has been attacked by Far Right groups for being black and Jewish. He has got where he is despite his background and skin colour, not because of it.
Of, Lord Ouseley, on the other hand, the opposite is true. It wouldn’t be quite fair to say he has no talent whatsoever – he does, after all, hold the distinction of a diploma in municipal administration from the nearly-world-famous Catford College in South London. But I don’t think it would be unduly unreasonable – nor, heaven forfend, “racist” – to suggest that the main reason he is now ensconced in the House of Lords is because of his blessed good fortune in having been born into an ethnic minority. He certainly wouldn’t have got that job otherwise as “chair” of the Commission for Racial Equality. And the job itself would never have been created – by government fiat and at taxpayers’ expense, natch – were it not for the weird, pervy yearning so many white liberals have to be lectured by black people on how disgustingly racist they are.
So it does strike me as a bit rich of this overpromoted nobody to be pontificating, as he has been, on Balotelli’s venial slips on social media.
Balotelli has claimed that it was all a big mistake.
Balotelli issued a formal apology on Tuesday for his hastily deleted post, writing on Twitter: “I apologize if I’ve offended anyone. The post was meant to be anti-racist with humour. I now understand that out of context may have the opposite effect.
But even if it wasn’t a mistake – even if he’d done it to provoke; even, for that matter, if he didn’t have the get-out-of-jail free of being both black and having an adoptive Jewish mother (which does rather make it hard to pin on him the charge of either anti-black racism or anti-Semitism) – I’d still maintain that no way should he be now facing possible sanctions including a five-match ban for his supposed crime.
Among those who disagree, though, is Lord Ouseley. He says:
“Whilst you can have humour in tackling these things,you’ve got no control over how that humour is being interpreted and whatdamage it might be doing.”
Damage? From a silly and instantly forgettable social media message (which, by the by, true to the principle of the Streisand Effect has now been in every newspaper, everywhere in Britain, without prompting any noticeable surge in racism or anti-Semitism)? Really?
There’s no reason why Lord Ouseley or the Football Association should be aware of this – after all, it wasn’t trivial and it didn’t involve football – but just the other day in Jerusalem a group of worshippers in a synagogue were hacked to pieces with machetes by a pair of Hamas terrorists, neither of whom had been radicalised by Instagram messages involving cartoon Nintendo characters. If you want to know what real anti-Semitism looks like, that is what it looks like. And if you wanted to know what real racism looks like, again you could find myriad appalling true-life examples, none of them resembling in any shape or form social images of moustachioed characters with blue dungarees and red hats.