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Ignorance 'excuse' for racist terms

Ignorance can be an excuse for using racist terminology, former Liverpool footballer John Barnes said as he defended Luis Suarez.

He added that Suarez's claim that he did not believe there was any harm in calling Manchester United player Patrice Evra a "negrita" is such an excuse.

He said Real Madrid midfielder Claude Makelele was called the word by his colleagues while in France and had not taken offence.

Education about the history of racism is the key to changing racist attitudes, Barnes said.

But Barnes, who as a player had bananas thrown at him from the terraces, said he was shocked by Saturday's fracas at Old Trafford, sparked when Suarez refused to shake Evra's hand before the game

Suarez is "the only person who knew" why he did not shake Evra's hand, but Liverpool would never have put the player in that position if they knew how he was going to react, he said.

Barnes added: "In terms of terminologies used that aren't acceptable here, people are still using them and not in the way that we see it. I suppose from Suarez's point of view, that is what he is saying in terms of the way he uses it.

"And when people say that ignorance is not an excuse, ignorance 100% is an excuse because we were ignorant 20 years ago and no one is taking us to task over it. And no one is saying: How come you weren't saying anything about it 20 years ago? because we are saying: Back then, that's the way it was.

"Well back then, that being the way it was, is where it is for some people now. There is a lot of unconscious racism that is going on. Legislation can help overt racism to say if there is any racist chanting in grounds you can get arrested, you can get ejected. But then you can keep your mouth shut - you can be as racist in thought as you like.

"I am interested in getting rid of racist thoughts, not just in terms of legislation."


From Belfast Telegraph