What does it say about me when the thing I find most shocking thing about Liam Stacey – the guy imprisoned for 56 days for his racist tweets about footballer Fabrice Muamba, sent seconds after he’d collapsed on a pitch in front of thousands – is that Liam ‘doesn’t look like a racist’. How ridiculous is that.
Sadly, it’s not the first time I’ve been disappointed in this way. Yet I know from experience that there are many racists about and that, as the cliché goes, they come in all shapes and sizes. Like the idiot I encountered on my way home last night, smoking a cigarette with his mate outside a pub, whilst proclaiming loudly about someone not there to defend himself: “I’m not racist but he’s a f’king black c#unt.” When his mate clocked me walking towards them and indicated my arrival, the guy had turned round, looked at me – a black woman – and simply carried on without batting an eye lid.
With his mate nodding enthusiastically in agreement, I couldn’t help but shake my head with equal vigour and repeat his sentence back him. He replied: “Nah, nah… You don’t understand. He *is* a f’king black c#unt. But then, I’m a white c#unt.” No you’re not, I said. You’re just a sad idiot with no intelligence or vocabulary.
The saddest thing is, idiot or not, at least I knew exactly where I stood with this guy. He saw race as a legitimate weapon in his toolbox of abuse, and he wasn’t embarrassed to use it.
Contrary to Liam Stacey who, on the surface, is the sort of everyday guy that I’d see in the street, in a bar or at a train station and probably smile at, the way that I smile at everyone. He would’ve seemed like your average, well-presented young man. And if we’d got into a conversation, I’m sure I would have been pleased for him when I found out that he was doing a good course at uni and interested in hearing all about it. The thing is, he may well have smiled back at me, engaged in the conversation, acted ‘normal’.
But then Liam Stacey is a coward. When people started complaining about his racist tweets he first said he’d been hacked, next claimed it was a joke, then launched another tirade of abuse and finally – presumably realising the level of anger he had created – deleted his twitter account. That’s because small-minded people like Liam can only act big when they have something to hide behind. Sometimes it’s a gang of friends, other times it may be a laptop or a smartphone. So, if he had met me when by himself, would he have smiled back and chatted to me, whilst all the time thinking that I was a “f’ing black b#tch”, or worse?
Encountering racism doesn’t surprise me – although racially abusing someone who’s just had a heart attack on national television and is fighting for his life is particularly sick. But it really isn’t something that I walk around thinking about, because, perhaps naively, I assume most people have a good ‘moral compass’. So it’s draining to be reminded that it’s not just Nick Griffen who tries to disguise his hatred and blend into the crowd.
Writing this piece, I googled Liam’s name and was led to lots of article about the story, with their associated readers’ comments. Most people were appalled by Liam’s behaviour. Many people debated the punishment. However, a depressingly large number of people cited the violation of Liam’s ‘freedom of speech’. To me, this is similar to those Americans who cite their ‘right to bear arms’ as an excuse for selling guns in supermarkets every time another kid goes on the killing spree in a high school. What about Fabrice’s rights?
At least the guy I bumped into outside that bar tonight had the courage to be upfront and honest about his prejudice.
As an aside, as I walked away from the guy outside the bar, another young man came up to me and said: “Ignore him, love. He’s just a dickhead.”
“Wise words, my friend. Wise words.”