John Barnes believes that "football can start the conversation" in the battle against racism, but believes we all need to take a step backwards to fully understand the issue first.
The Liverpool and England legend claims that while actions such as taking the knee are good, it is important to understand why we discriminate against others in the first instance.
“Football can start the conversation. It can highlight the issue, but it cannot change the issue,” he said on Eurosport’s Power of Sport.
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“The conversation has to move on. The tangible difference being made by this act should really then move on from, yes, we're taking the knee - but why are we taking the knee?
“It's about Black lives mattering, end of story. And if you believe that black lives matter as much as any other life, we should get behind it.
“The journey of a thousand steps starts with the first step. We’re not taking the first step, we’re trying to start with the second, and the first step is to own it within ourselves and say we discriminate, we all do, and until we do that, we will never get anywhere.”
Barnes was the victim of some abhorrent racist behaviour from the terraces during the 1980s and referenced a famous picture which depicts him back-heeling a banana thrown onto the pitch.
He stressed that while racism was more overt in those days, it is still very much alive in the present day.
“It's a great picture and a very iconic picture. This is 1987 or ’88. For the previous eight years, this was happening most weeks, you know, whereby bananas were on the field. I think it was Cyrille Regis who said, ‘if I had collected all the bananas thrown on the pitch, I'd be able to open a corner shop.’
“I always say there are invisible banana skins and unspoken words of racism thrown at Black people every day of their lives. And we just assume because we don't see it anymore, that it's not there, which is very dangerous.
“Gareth Southgate has said about the impact the Black players have had in changing people's perceptions and bringing the country together. And then within three minutes of Black players missing penalties, that all went to pot. If all it takes for us to revert back to the bad old ways and for us not to support the Black players is for them to miss a penalty, what real tangible evidence is there that because they are good, Britain is changing its perceptions of them?”
Finding a solution to what has undoubtedly become one of the biggest scourges of society is no mean feat, and Barnes feels we all have a role to play in providing a united front to challenge the authorities to do better.
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