M.Most people watching Match of the Day host Gary Lineker would have no trouble recognizing that the man is white, and so it’s no surprise that he was mocked after revealing in a podcast interview that he was abused. racist “because of his skin” in childhood and at times in his professional football career.
While he immediately qualified his comments with the claim that he was “English as they come” (by which he presumably meant white), many social media users and some pundits ridiculed him for allegedly “identifying himself as black”.
But the mockery is misleading. Lineker’s comments were important and insightful, giving us an idea of how race and racism can work.
At stake in the backlash is a fundamental misunderstanding about how racialization works – the social process by which people are organized into different categories, based on real or imagined physical and cultural characteristics. And it’s a confusion that appears to be shared by right-wing lures and, sadly, by some socially aware advocates of racial justice. They stick to a vision of “race” as static and constant over time and place, despite the fact that we know that racial categories are constantly being invented and reinvented: think, for example, of the coding of “color” as an identity in southern apartheid Africa .
First, it’s worth saying that if you look at the photographs of Lineker as a young football player, with his dark hair, olive skin and wide nose, you can understand why he may have been read as something other than “white” and received racial abuse. as such, especially as a footballer in the 1980s.
In order for white to survive, its borders must be constantly guarded. In other words, many whites will go through the experience of being tested for “looking a little ethnic”, whether because of curly hair, darker skin, or prominent features. Even a festive tan can call a white’s race into question, so fragile are his boundaries.
It was also strange to see people from all angles immediately rushing to declare that Lineker must consider himself black – which is not a term he used when talking about it – as if racial discrimination in England was experienced only by those who are more obscure. skin. Many groups have entered and left the whiteness club: Southern Europeans, Eastern Europeans, traveler groups, Irish.
What is overshadowed by the mockery of Lineker’s comments is that discrimination doesn’t need to reach its intended goal to work. Heterosexual men have reported aggressive homophobic abuse due to perceived female interests or behaviors. Gender policing of femininity by transmysogynes has had a ripple effect for cisgender women, especially butch lesbian women, who found themselves challenged in public restrooms. Whether or not you belong to the identity group you are perceived to belong to is irrelevant: racists don’t ask for ancestry test results before determining whether you should taste the soil or not.
Observing that there are collateral damage to racism, homophobia and transmysogyny does not detract or distract from the reality of this discrimination reaching the “right” target. Ultimately, Lineker’s experience reveals how racism is based on a lie: despite the best efforts of white supremacists, it remains stubbornly true that identity is a porous and socially determined thing.
The macabre rightists who rush to dismiss his words and tweet, “Black Linekers Matter” are meaningless and predictable, but it pays to be graceful in the face of the more sensitive reaction of racial minorities who feel insulted or sponsored by this story. Certainly the case of Rachel Dolezal appropriating black identity and claiming to be “transracial”, or the black fishing allegations against Jesy Nelson, provide evidence why many have simply had enough of what may seem like an epidemic of whites who take over the racial struggle.
But sometimes not everything is black and white. In the case, for example, of theater director Anthony Ekundayo Lennon, who has a complex personal history of racial abuse and confusion about his legacy, due to obvious “non-white” characteristics that arise from childhood, the false representation of his history and the false equivalence made to Dolezal seemed like a missed opportunity for a more in-depth discussion of race in Britain. But in the arena of social media reaction and reduction, we continue to miss out on these opportunities over and over.