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We need to talk about race

I should probably know better than to stray into a blog entry on the subject of football (especially as an England fan living in Scotland!). But I’m going to press ahead and see where we go with this – after all, what’s the worst that could happen!?

Like many of you I’m sure, I absolutely loved the recent European Championships (at least until the penalties in the final). Its great to be able to switch on the TV and watch high quality international games, sometimes even on several channels at once. At the beginning it felt like there was no end to the various matches. And then, all of a sudden, the matches started to dry up as the tournament progressed. Thankfully, by that time Wimbledon had also started though!

It felt like a really positive celebration of football. While most of you were probably not supporting England, I’m sure you can agree that Gareth Southgate and his team conducted themselves in an exemplary way throughout the tournament. There are some seriously impressive young men using their footballing talents to shine a wider light on important issues in society. People like Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford, who were both raised by single mothers struggling to make ends meet and to put food on the table.  And both now using their position to speak out on social issues including free school meals and racism.

It hasn’t always been the case that I would count myself proud to be an England supporter over the years. But that pride was hugely dented in the aftermath of the final when three young, black footballers were subjected to a torrent of sickening racist abuse on social media. We’ve made huge progress in tackling racist attitudes in the UK (please don't kid yourselves that this is just an English problem), but there is still so much to be done. Whatever the social media companies do to remove these sick messages, sadly they can’t dig out the cancerous attitudes lurking in the hearts of the people who post them.

One of my favourite verses says this: “In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal” (Galatians 3:28). The Christian message above all is one of equality for all people, worthy of love and respect because we are all created in the very image of God himself. I believe we still have so much work to do in tackling underlying prejudices and attitudes, even in the church. Last year I read a very uncomfortable book on this subject and I’d encourage you to also read it and be challenged about how we can all do better in this regard: We need to talk about Race. None of us can afford to bury our heads in the sand and pretend that racism is no longer an issue in our society.

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