LOL. Fuck Muamba he’s dead !!! #Haha

by Sam Kriss

University of Swansea student Liam Stacey is currently serving a 56-day prison sentence for a series of racist posts made on Twitter after Bolton Wanderers footballer Fabrice Muamba collapsed on the field from a heart attack. Nobody in the UK press has yet reprinted the tweets in question, which I think demonstrates an astonishing level of cowardice. Here they are:

LOL. Fuck Muamba he’s dead !!! #Haha

@porcavacca owww go suck a nigger dick you fucking aids ridden cunt

@SamParishPR go suck muamba’s dead black dick then you aids ridden twat! #muambasdead

It’s pretty obvious that Liam Stacey is, to put it kindly, a bit of a twat. I don’t think that his twattishness necessarily earned him 56 days in jail, but that’s not really what I want to talk about. That angle’s been covered plentifully, by everyone from cryptofascist American ‘libertarians’ to the outgoing EU commissioner for human rights. (Although as someone who spends slightly too much time writing stupid and inflammatory nonsense on the Internet, it’s not as if it’s not a concern.) What really struck me about this story is the way the British judiciary appears to have claimed for itself the right to determine what is racist, and to punish accordingly. This is, after all, the same British justice system that in West London was 79% more likely to jail black defendants after the summer riots, the same British justice system that sends black people to jail for driving offences 44% more than white defendants, the same British justice system whose officers suffocated a young black man last year and told him that ‘the problem with you is you will always be a nigger.’

Is Laim Stacey a racist? Maybe. To be honest, that’s not the real problem. The problem is that 44% of black Britons aged between 16 and 24 are unemployed, as compared to 20% of their white peers. If we take racism to be a simple matter of Bad Racist People saying Bad Racist Things, it allows us to cover for the pervasive institutional and systemic racism that suffocates our society. If we can all jeer at the Nasty Bad Racist, the rest of us are let off the hook.

Take another case: earlier this year in Sanford, Florida, community watch co-ordinator George Zimmerman made a 911 call in which he described a ‘guy look[ing] like he is up to no good or on drugs or something.’ He then proceeded to chase down, shoot and kill Trayvon Martin, a black 17-year old described as ‘an A and B student majoring in cheerfulness,’ who had been in the area to buy some skittles and a can of iced tea. Is George Zimmerman a racist? Obviously, and the fact that he has not yet been charged with any crime is indicative of the horrific institutional racism still subsumed in American law enforcement. But the far bigger problem is  the place where the shooting occurred: The Retreat at Twin Lakes, an overwhelmingly white gated community where gates and security guards keep its rich residents in a state of suburban bliss, safe from the churning multiethnic chaos of the outside world. The problem is that places like this, where the presence of a black teenager on the street could constitute a cause for alarm, exist – and not only in Sanford; they’re ubiquitous, with up to eight million Americans living in similar communities. Zimmerman’s personal racism didn’t emerge from a vacuum; it’s a product of his politico-geographical milieu, a product of the vast underlying substrate that is American class and racial segregation.

Republican strategist Lee Atwater described perfectly the way racial issues have become masked over the course of the 20th Century in an anonymous interview:

You start out in 1954 by saying ‘nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now that you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is that blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘nigger, nigger.’

What, then, happens to the people who, in 2012, are still saying ‘nigger, nigger, nigger’? They become homo sacer, they’re a horrifying reminder of the actual content of the society whose mode of appearance is one of racial equality. The must be clamped down on, because they expose our hypocrisy. In the UK, where a high level of abstraction has been reached, Liam Stacey was clamped down on near-immediately. In Florida, where a lot of people still seem to be living somewhere between 1954 and 1968, the power structures are dragging their heels, but I’m sure George Zimmerman will be clamped down on too, eventually. He’s a monster; he certainly deserves it. But it won’t signify an end to the problem. It’s just another of its manifestations.

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