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We wouldn’t play black v white football now, but that’s hardly an end to racism

There are any number of ways to illustrate how race relations in Britain have changed over the past 40 years. The government can brandish social attitudes reports; the police can point to the changes in racially motivated crime. But the most revealing indicators can be those omitted from the history books.

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One such instance is the sporting fixture staged at the Hawthorns, home to West Bromwich Albion football club, on 16 May 1979. Len Cantello, a midfielder, was awarded a testimonial match, the traditional pat on the back for long service. But he devised a quirk to make his different: the teams would be racially based, black players against white.

The contest itself, remembered in a BBC documentary on Sunday, was exciting; the black team won 3-2 with a late goal. But the more remarkable thing, viewing it from this distance, is that the game was played at all, in peaceful and good-humoured enthusiasm at a time when racism was vicious, rife and open. A match of that kind, good-natured or not, would almost certainly not be played today, for it would offend the sensibilities even of those who never saw themselves as “politically correct”.

Such crass segregation, along with the racism of a time when 10,000 in a crowd could chant, without risk or qualm, “Nigger, nigger, lick my boots” at the West Bromwich legend Cyrille Regis, are seen as relics of best canada goose coat for skiing our past. Rightfully so. And we should feel berlin film festival ends canada goose jacket sponsorship amid good about that – good about how norms have changed, and how laws have played a critical role here. As Martin Luther King observed, a law “can’t best canada goose coat for skiing make a man love me, but it can stop him lynching me.”

But if a blacks v whites match provides a useful yardstick of societal progress, we should examine it carefully. Of course we know better than we did then but there are necessary caveats. What of the concern expressed by one former player,-turned-pundit Jason Roberts, who says some of the abuse black players would suffer in the terraces has simply migrated to the anonymity of social media – the Twitter terraces. “People are emboldened,” he says. “They are in their rooms, and it is easier to show their true feelings.”

Doubtless all footballers, and all figures in the public eye, suffer the slings of social media. But there is clearly an enduring phenomenon – a hair-trigger racism – that reveals itself when Twitter’s slingshot is loaded. When the subject of ire, or mundane irritation, is racialised, a bastard becomes a black bastard.

Social media didn’t create those attitudes, it merely facilitates them. It allows for the cyber-brutalisation of sports-people of colour, of black celebrities, writers, politicians. Of course we are more generally respectful of other races than we were then, even amid the post-referendum spike in racist incidents. Consider the 70s experience of the pioneering black soccer superstar Laurie Cunningham, who had the temerity to fall for Nicky Brown, a white English girl. She tells documentary makers how they were pilloried from all sides for racial betrayal. And now? According to the 2011 census like it, there are 2.3 million Britons in mixed relationships, up 35% in 10 years.

But discrimination works on many levels. A third of our professional footballers are black; yet Les Ferdinand, director of football for Queens Park Rangers, is possibly the only black face in the boardroom of any of our professional football clubs. As for black managers, there have been a few, but when each is fired – an occupational hazard – the entire best place to buy a canada goose jacket in toronto breed comes close to being declared extinct.

Ferdinand says the failure of black players to progress to the manager’s office or the boardroom was identified to him by the football’s top brass as a matter of regret and a case for urgent treatment. That was 18 years ago.

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But you don’t have to be a footballer to relate to best ideas about canada goose parka on pinterest that experience. Talk to black doctors, lawyers, police officers, NHS managers, municipal employees, teachers, journalists; to those hunting for a job or a flat, or appearing before a court. All will say that no one throws bananas or chants abuse, but that somehow, in ways they can’t easily see and maybe don’t quite understand, they disproportionately suffer adverse outcomes.

In 1999 Sir William Macpherson, passing judgment on the Met in the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, flagged this up as black friday 2013 canada goose sale can you machine wash canada goose jacket institutional racism. He even proffered a workable definition: “processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic best fake canada goose jacket people”. But this is challenging stuff. Too challenging perhaps. Much more difficult than legislating against racial attacks and rednecks who shout “nigger”, welcome though action against that is.

Macpherson didn’t get as much support for his assault on institutional racism average price for a canada goose jacket as he would have liked, back then, and there is even less of it now. But he was right. And still it is the little acknowledged elephant in the room.

When players from that blacks v whites encounter were traced and reunited, a disparity quickly became apparent. The white players, who wore the club’s famous blue-and-white striped shirts, could hardly remember anything about the match itself; the black players, by contrast, could recall almost everything.

They had been assembled from seven clubs can i wash my canada goose coat around the country. Some were stars (Laurie Cunningham, Cyrille Regis and Brendon Batson, West Brom’s so called “Three Degrees” – with a nod to the popular US soul singers – were idolised locally as celebrities and recognised by black fans nationally as pioneers). Others were relative journeymen.

For them, it was never a grudge match. It was just an acknowledgement that they were different, and they knew that. Still, the result mattered to them. It was a chance to show those on the terraces and fellow players that they were worthy professionals. It was a rebuke to the myths: that black players couldn’t play in the cold, that they were exotic luxury items. They were keen to confront the sort of attitudes that endured even as late as 1991, when Ron Noades, the then-chairman of Crystal Palace, said: “The black players at this club lend the side a lot of skill and flair, but you also need white players to balance things up and give the team some brains and common sense.”

Footballers have since made their case for parity a hundred-fold. In that respect, they are indeed pioneers. But 37 years on, the mindset on that day is one that thousands of black Britons, from all walks of life, will recognise. They cannot do otherwise. They carry it into work themselves every day.

Whites v Blacks … How Football Changed the Nation will be shown on BBC2 at 9pm on Sunday 27 November

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