Academics clash over idea racism can be 'managed'

17 July 2021, 16:24 | Updated: 17 July 2021, 16:27

By Tim Dodd

This is the moment two professors fiercely clashed over the idea racism can be 'managed' as opposed to eradicated.

The conversation comes amid mounting pressure on social media companies to do more to tackle racism on their platforms, as Mo Farah says abuse towards black athletes is getting worse.

Professor of Sociology at Aston University, Ellis Cashmore, began by saying: "We are now reacting to the latest state of racism as if it is a hideously big problem, whereas my point is we really don't know.

"There may still be systemic racism in society, but it doesn't manifest like it used to, you know that!"

Read more: Online racists will be banned from football matches, Boris Johnson confirms 

Life Sciences Professor at Heriot-Watt University Sir Geoff Palmer, who was Scotland's first black professor, responded: "Well it doesn't manifest, but it's there, you can see it in representation."

Andrew Pierce then put Professor Cashmore's point to Sir Geoff that the "racists win because we're discussing this on this programme this morning. But I'd argue it's very important we discuss it and it's important social media cleans up its act."

"I'd agree," Sir Geoff replied.

"With George Floyd, if it wasn't for the media, the academics wouldn't have elicited this kind of response. No publication has elicited any of this."

On the issue of online racism, Professor Cashmore said: "Let's try and keep things in proportion and say hang on, is this such a monster? Is it as bad as it was in the 70s or 80s? Or is it just a few kids who are reaping mayhem with us?"

Sir Palmer disagreed: "It's not just a few kids. If we use language like that, then we don't need to do anything."

The two academics then argued over the "evidence" of whether it was a "few kids" or not.

Read more: Man who appeared to post racist abuse at England players claims account was 'hacked' 

Andrew then had to "intervene as the referee", asking Professor Cashmore: "You're being too complacent aren't you?"

"No, not at all... I'm saying what we need to do is manage racism," he replied.

"I've been in this business long enough to know that some people will take their racism with them to the grave. In a sense we can't do much about them. 

"What we have to do is manage racism in a way that stops that racism affecting other people in a detrimental, harmful, and damaging way."

Sir Geoff then furiously hit back at this idea: "We've got to change people's attitudes not manage it! If you're going to manage it you say it is normal. Please don't say things like that. 'Managing it' as if it is natural or normal - it is not!"

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