BLOG: Racism doesn’t need to be loud, overt or obvious to cause hurt or offence – Mayor Joanne Anderson

Last night, I was surprised to see a clip of a completely different woman who was supposedly me, used in a clip by BBC North West Tonight.

This woman was a Councillor and former Lord Mayor of Liverpool City Council. She’s blonde and I’m significantly taller. We look absolutely nothing like each other. The only similarities we share are that we’re both women, and we’re both Black.

The BBC have since issued an apology  – but the fact remains, it should never have happened in the first place.

Some will say this was simply a mistake, no malice was intended – and I’m sure it wasn’t.  But focusing on the intent – rather than the impact felt by the person on the receiving end, is where we need to see change. Racism doesn’t need to be loud, overt or obvious to cause hurt or offence.

And it’s not just me who has experienced this lazy journalism and casual racism from the media. In 2017, a picture of grime star Stormzy was printed in an Irish newspaper instead of footballer Romelu Lukaku.  And in 2015, ITV used footage of Ainsley Harriott instead of Lenny Henry.  

Casual racism and cases of micro-aggression can be harder to spot and therefore harder to call out. Micro-aggressions happen in our daily lives when bias against marginalized groups reveal themselves in a way that leaves the person feeling uncomfortable – which is exactly what happened to me last night.

As a city, we experienced stereotyping recently after the Champions League final in France. The treatment of fans that day was inhumane – but the authorities tried to pin the blame on Liverpool fans, making them out to be football hooligans. A recent enquiry into the event proved it was the authorities at fault; but I was incensed at Liverpool once again being at the centre of this negative stereotyping.

Ignoring instances of micro-aggression won’t make this go away and  that’s why I’m writing this today. And that’s why earlier this year Liverpool made history by being the first ever city to hold a week-long festival, Liverpool Against Racism.

I  was so proud of how our city came together in solidarity that week to make a real statement against racism and hate crime. We saw dynamic music, inspiring talks, debates and cultural events. It was an uplifting and amazing week that opened and stimulated conversations and felt like the start of something positive. 

But we do have to wonder why there was little media coverage of this history-making festival. It begs the question whether the lack of national media coverage correlates with the lack of diversity in the hierarchy of the media.

Bonnie Greer attended the festival and  had the room transfixed as she said ‘We are our ancestors wildest dreams..’.  And that we are – but the fight still continues. Liverpool Against Racism was a drop in the ocean of the work that is still to be done. It may take decades to undo the layers of systemic racism ingrained so deeply in society.  

So we will keep going and we will keep talking openly about race. As for my wildest dreams, I look to a  time when race doesn’t define the trajectory of our  lives, black people aren’t stereotyped and discriminated against and we are all seen as individuals – not all the same person because of our colour.  

Joanne AndersonMayor of Liverpool

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