Of Liverpool Football Club, England, Racism and Beyond
(the perspective of a woman from Atlanta)
Obviously, I was not born into the legacy of Liverpool Football Club. Far from it, my parents are from small towns outside of Memphis, Tennessee. I was born in California in 1975, but thankfully, my parents moved to a small city just outside of Atlanta in 1979. Even though I currently reside in Dallas, I very proudly call Atlanta my home. After all, it’s where I spent most of my life.
What I love most about Atlanta is its diversity and charm. The birthplace of Martin Luther King, Jr., Coca Cola, and home to a vibrant music scene and a rich history. Being from the South, I am also quite aware of our much darker history of racism and bigotry. And though it is far less common, it still exists today. But from this fight toward equality, a great cultural revolution transformed the city of Atlanta into a truly multicultural Mecca.
I was lucky enough to teach in a highly diverse high school in north Atlanta for five years. I can tell you there is still a lot of prejudice out there. The stories some of my students told me would curl your toenails. Even within my own family, I have fought against the prejudice directed at Hispanic immigrants. I just have no stomach for it.
At this point, you may be asking yourself what all of this has to do with Liverpool Football Club or England. As I said, I wasn’t born a Liverpool supporter. No, I was a young college student at Georgia State University, and I met a trio of young men from London. They happened to be Chelsea fans (wasn’t a crime then) and invited me to the pub with them to watch Arsenal play at Stamford Bridge.
Long story short, I became quite a fan of the game. Then, on 17. December 1995, it all changed. I became enamored of the club that day. Robbie and Macca were immense! I finally managed to make it over for my first ever match in 2002 for Roma at Anfield. Houllier’s first return match since his aortic dissection the previous October. (I still have my card from the mosaic.) That was the day I truly fell in love with Liverpool.
And it wasn’t just the club, either. (Though there is no experience like Anfield for a European cup tie. Fact!) The city of Liverpool, the people, the air. One of the most contented moments of my life happened in the middle of the City Centre at 3 AM. I remember happily singing the JAR song with no one in site, and a single, solitary voice singing back to me from far away. I just felt home. Even by all the self-professed Toffees, I was welcomed with open arms into the crazy family that exists in the heart of Merseyside.
After a few visits to Liverpool, I decided to move closer. Unfortunately, the closest I got was Boston, Lincolnshire. What a shithole! Sorry, but no other word really does that horrible place justice. I thought people were racist and xenophobic in the Deep South. I had no clue what I was in for. Needless to say, people were not shy to tell me their opinions of foreigners.
I was only slightly better in that I at least spoke English. Though each time I accidentally used an American spelling whilst teaching, it was if I was trying to commit treason. It was a calculated act of subterfuge to “AmericaniZe” the students. No, sorry, I’m just a scientist who is grateful to spell a word correctly in any form of English.
In my personal experience, xenophobia is a far greater problem in England than straight racism. I remember smiling at the few times I heard someone say “Lithuanian” without it being preceded by the word “filthy.” I was even told by a doctor at my local surgery that I wasn’t worth his time because there were people waiting that actually paid into the NHS, despite the fact that I did as well.
I am writing this now because I am concerned about the recent attack on the reputation of this club and all of us as supporters. I have worked with students of all ethnicities, socioeconomic classes , religious affiliations, and nationalities. I take seriously any attacks to my integrity. And that is what is done when it is suggested that my support of a man I honestly believe is innocent of the charges against him is somehow tantamount to supporting the alleged offense.
Finally, I still cannot justify the verdict based on the evidence as it is presented in the 115 page report. Previous individuals have very eloquently pointed to the circular logic used throughout and the very blatant lack of parity between the treatment of Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra. Just compare the glowing introduction of PE in contrast to the opening description of LS’s demeanor.
I will not continue to rehash what has been previously stated. At this point, I fully understand the decision not to appeal verdict. Given the fact that only now has Stephen Lawrence seen any justice, which seems ridiculously mild at best, at least the English can claim to be the most intolerant of racism...if only on the football pitch…and it is a foreigner playing for a club that is admittedly in the very part of England those in London wanted to allow to slip into a “managed decline” anyway.