MP: Black Lives Matter has made anti-racism message harder to achieve

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt has explained why he believes a 'circuit breaker' lockdown wouldn't be right in Suffolk. Picture: PAUL...

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt has expressed concerns over the political agenda of Black Lives Matter - Credit: PAUL GEATER

An interesting poll was published last month by pollster Opinium about the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

Though the findings of the poll were eye-opening for some, I wasn’t altogether that surprised.

The pollster asked the question: “Have Black Lives Matter movement increased racial tensions in the UK?”

Amongst all voters, 55% agreed that BLM had increased racial tensions and only 18% disagreed.

With regards to minority ethnic people, 45% agreed and 22% disagreed.

While many protests held by Black Lives Matter have been entirely peaceful, such as this one in Ipsw

Many people have joined Black Lives Matter protests this year, including this one in Mr Hunt's Ipswich constituency - Credit: Archant

Opinium is a very respected polling company and I believe anyone who cares about tackling racism and addressing racial tensions should take the findings of the polling very seriously indeed.

I have previously stated that I believe it unfortunate that the BLM movement, who are now looking to establish themselves as a political party, have often attempted to exploit the justifiable outpouring of anger and disgust following the murder of George Floyd to promote their own divisive political agenda.

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Whilst campaigning against racism, BLM has also sought to promote other controversial objectives, such as (one) defunding the police, (two) overthrowing capitalism, (three) abolishing the nuclear family and (four) abolishing prisons and detention centres.

In addition to this, they have also sought to wade into complex geopolitical issues, such disputes between Israel and Palestine.

At a time when a simple unifying message in opposition to racism has been needed, BLM the political movement have made this far harder and have understandably attracted the ire of millions of Britons up and down the country from a variety of different ethnic groups.

This provided the context to the debates there have been this week over whether football players should be taking the knee before the start of matches, as they have been when there were no spectators in the stadium.

Since spectators have started attending matches again, the gesture has clearly become more controversial - with some sections of football fans at grounds booing when players have been taking the knee and some other examples of cheering as well.

I appreciate that there has been a history of racism in football and I’m pleased that charities such as Show Racism the Red Card have played such an invaluable role in tackling it. There has been significant progress but there is still a way to go.

The simple fact is that the taking of the knee gesture has largely become synonymous with the BLM political movement in the minds of huge sections of the country.

People participated in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Hyde Park, London, in memory of George

Black Lives Matter has held protests across the country - Credit: PA

So understandably to many football fans, the taking of the knee gesture at the start of matches will be construed as a show of allegiance to BLM the political movement.

I completely understand that for the vast majority of football players, the taking of the knee is purely about taking a stand against racism in football and not the wider aims of the BLM movement - but I do think they should show a degree of understanding as to how the gesture may be construed by thousands of fans who support their club, oppose racism, but also strongly oppose the BLM political movement and many of its aims and objectives.

I have to say that Wayne Rooney didn’t help the situation when he released a statement stating explicitly that the taking of the knee was about supporting the BLM campaign, not just opposing racism in the game.

Of course there is certain irony that won’t be lost on many, of many millionaire Premier League footballers showing allegiance towards a political movement that wants to overthrow capitalism - but that’s by the by.

I was pleased to hear that many football players are now linking arms before the start of matches to take a stand against racism instead.

My view is that this is a far more unifying gesture and one that would achieve far more success in bringing people together to take a stand against the racism that sadly still exists within our society, but also football more specifically.

Another recent example of what many would consider to be a divisive approach to tackling the issue was an action taken by the children’s charity Barnardo’s.

I have spoken before about the term “white privilege” and the concerns I have about how it could actually increase racial tensions.

A month or so ago, Barnardo’s produced a document called: “White privilege - A Guide for Parents.” 

I was very surprised that Barnardo’s had decided to produce such a document. Quite rightly, Barnardo’s has a formidable reputation for providing support to some of the vulnerable children from across society, whatever their background or ethnic group. Therefore, I found the decision to produce this document as unhelpful and divisive.

Barnardo’s has a huge role to play supporting some of the most vulnerable children throughout society whatever their background and it should be looking to focus solely on this and avoid getting dragged into using divisive terminology and phrases.

Wherever racism rears its ugly head in society, it should be robustly confronted and stamped out and, though there has been progress, we still have a way to go.

What’s clear to me is that, to do this, it’s important to take the British people with us on the journey and to marginalise the racist minority.

The task of doing this becomes more difficult by using divisive terms and phrases which many people struggle to understand and by being perceived to show allegiance to deeply divisive political movements with a diverse range of extreme views and objectives.

When it comes to football players looking to take a stand against racism at football matches, the aim should be to emphasise unity and not division and linking arms with each other before the game seems to me to be quite a powerful way of doing this.

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