Are Bernardo Silva or Justin Trudeau racist?

You wait for a racism bus and then two come along at once. Actually, I’d like to distance myself from the term “racism bus” in case Trump uses it as part of his next campaign slogan.

Only days after Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau was found to have “blacked up” in a function at his school, Manchester City footballer Bernardo Silva decided to post some extremely questionable material to his fellow City player and friend Bernard Mendy.

The material in question was a cartoon character from a sweet packet from his homeland, a confectionary called Conguitos. The character is considered anti-black imagery given the unflattering disproportionate facial features.  Along with it came the suggestion that Mendy looked like this character.

Trudeau apologised straight away for his blunder when it was brought to light and then divulged another transgression where he had once again blacked up to sing Harry Belafonte.

While he explained that at the time he was trying to be as true to the character as he could, he acknowledged fully that what he had done was racially insensitive and wrong and he apologised profusely.

If you think Justin Trudeau is a racist, then you’ve not been paying attention. There are few people alive today in positions of power that have done more for race relations and LGBT+ rights (while we are at it) than Justin Trudeau. If you don’t believe me, feel free to check out his voting record.

Our Portuguese friend took another tact. Having caused such outrage, he instead decided to then argue that it was down to how people had interpreted what was posted. Bold strategy – and one that of course will now make the eventual apologise that Abu Dhabi PR will force him to give – ring hollow.

Are either racist? I doubt it. In Silva’s case, I believe it was – in Silva’s mind at least –  intended to be a harmless joke between two friends. Whether people admit it or not, there are things we say to people we trust behind closed doors we simply would never say to others. Context is everything.

The issue is, this was not two friends having a laugh, it was Bernardo Silva sharing racist imagery with millions of people on social media. For him to state it was just a joke between two friends is naive at best and disingenuous at worst.

By posting this imagery – given his privileged position – he unconscionably gave others permission to do likewise, especially younger people who look up to him.

It does not however make him a racist.

“Racist” is a term that gets thrown around far too often these days. People can make mistakes and not be racist. Racism is the deliberate act to discriminate based on the misinformed idea that you are superior and someone else is inferior based on race.

This is not what happened in either of these cases. It is important to understand that what Silva posted and Trudeau depicted were racist imagery but that does not make them racists. All you serve to do by calling people racist who who are not racist, is to take away from the seriousness of actual racism.

A good example of this is that in England, where I live, the reaction to this has been extremely different to what I believe it would have been in America.

Why? As the kids say, there are levels.

Black people in this country have the luxury of not being executed in the street due to being “the wrong colour” by those we are supposed to trust to protect us. This is what actual racism looks like. 

I guess that’s why it is easy for some people to wrongly dismiss this as nothing. It isn’t nothing, it’s a licence for racism whether Bernardo accepts it or not.

How will the Football Association or Canadian voters react? Well that will be interesting to say the least.

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