Race & Ethinicity

The French presidential favourite’s pandering to the far right is indulged because of his pro-US stance and neo-liberalism

It is a disturbing mark of our times that Ségolène Royal enjoys such little support from the media and politicians on this side of the Channel, notwithstanding her highly credible performance in Wednesday’s TV debate. Nicolas Sarkozy seems to be their overwhelmingly preferred choice. Downing Street, unsurprisingly, is backing him: Tony Blair prefers the right as always – Silvio Berlusconi, José María Aznar, Angela Merkel, George Bush. David Cameron is supporting Sarkozy. So is the Economist. Matthew Parris, the Times columnist, is backing Royal, but only for the perverse reason that France is not yet ready for Sarkozy, but a Royal presidency will prepare the ground for his subsequent triumph.

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Anti-terror stunts and a barrage of propaganda are demonising Muslims and making Islamophobia the acceptable face of racism

Predictably enough, the action of the police in last year’s Forest Gate raid has been excused with the mildest of rebukes. Out of more than 150 complaints, only a tiny number were upheld. The whole operation, you will recall, was a figment of the security services’ imagination. A fortnight ago, there was another spectacular anti-terrorist operation, this time in Birmingham, concerning an alleged plot to kidnap a Muslim member of the armed forces. The pattern of these operations is now well established. The police swoop on an area, make dozens of arrests, accompanied by lurid media reports about the would-be plotters’ intentions. There have now been charges, although an innocent party who was arrested and then released has given a disturbing account of his experience in custody. The most alarming example was last summer, when it was alleged there was a plot hatched in Pakistan to blow up as many as 10 aircraft, which resulted in a huge security clampdown at Heathrow and new hand-luggage rules. But, despite a number of charges, a degree of scepticism would be wise, given the experience of cases such as the ricin plot that never was.

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The foul-mouthed abuse on Big Brother shows how little we understand about prejudice, and the world judges us for it

So, thank God, Jade has been evicted. Imagine if she hadn’t, that Shilpa had walked the plank? It would have represented a popular endorsement of flagrant racism. The extraordinary fact, of course, is that no one, or virtually no one, ever owns up to racism.

Ron Atkinson described Marcel Desailly as a “fucking lazy, thick nigger” on air and then had the temerity to claim that he was not a racist. Jade Goody called Shilpa Shetty “Shilpa Fuckawallah” and “Shilpa Poppadom”, and then similarly claimed that she is not a racist. Andy Duncan, Channel 4’s chief executive, in a performance which should see him sacked forthwith, claimed on Thursday that “we cannot with certainty say that the comments directed at Shilpa have been racially motivated”. Ron Atkinson, Jade Goody and Andy Duncan are in denial – like, it must be said, millions of other whites.

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The umpire at the centre of the ball-tampering row has a record of making decisions against players from the Indian subcontinent

Most extraordinary scenes surrounded the test match between Pakistan and England yesterday. The Australian umpire Darrell Hair declared that the Pakistanis had tampered with the ball, a grave accusation, and proceeded to award England five runs and then allowed their batsmen to choose a new ball. The Pakistanis understandably were deeply aggrieved. The umpires failed to consult the Pakistan captain prior to their decision nor offer any kind of explanation for their decision. This is not an isolated incident as far as Darrell Hair is concerned. He has a history of making decisions against not only Pakistan players, but also those from India and Sri Lanka.

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The World Cup is a marvel of global representation. So why is it getting whiter?

This World Cup, therefore, should not be confined to the quality of the football (surely a disappointment, with a truly great team failing to emerge) but also deal with its broader cultural meaning. In this respect it has been an even bigger disappointment. With this World Cup, global football has taken a step backwards.

The importance of football has grown in direct proportion to its ability to become genuinely global and not primarily European. Unlike virtually The World Cup is not just a great global sporting event, it is also inscribed with much deeper cultural and political importance. Any evaluation of every other human activity – from politics and economics to universities and the military – football has managed to give a growing place in the sun to those who are normally marginalised and unrepresented. The growing importance of Africa and Asia in football are testimony to this.

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Ronaldinho is now the highest-earning footballer in the world. It is a victory for both his footballing genius and skin-colour.

Good news, for a change. I read this morning that, according to the magazine France Football, Ronaldinho has overtaken David Beckham as the highest paid footballer in the world. Good news for two reasons.

First, it is good to think that the greatest footballer in the world is also the highest paid in terms of salary, sponsorship and the rest of it. Beckham is a player of distinctly limited talent: he probably never rated in the world’s top 20 in terms of ability, and certainly does not now. His value has been to do with his looks rather than his skill. Beckham is about celebrity, about the Hollywoodisation of football. On the eve of the World Cup, it is good to think that footballers are, above all, appreciated for their footballing skills. And Ronaldinho is a magician who is about to delight hundreds of millions of people around the world with his special brand of magic.

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A continent that inflicted colonial brutality all over the globe for 200 years has little claim to the superiority of its values

Is the argument over the Danish cartoons really reducible to a matter of free speech? Even if we believe that free speech is a fundamental value, that does not give us carte blanche to say what we like in any context, regardless of consequence or effect. Respect for others, especially in an increasingly interdependent world, is a value of at least equal importance.

Europe has never had to worry too much about context or effect because for around 200 years it dominated and colonised most of the world. Such was Europe’s omnipotence that it never needed to take into account the sensibilities, beliefs and attitudes of those that it colonised, however sacred and sensitive they might have been. On the contrary, European countries imposed their rulers, religion, beliefs, language, racial hierarchy and customs on those to whom they were entirely alien. There is a profound hypocrisy – and deep historical ignorance – when Europeans complain about the problems posed by the ethnic and religious minorities in their midst, for that is exactly what European colonial rule meant for peoples around the world. With one crucial difference, of course: the white minorities ruled the roost, whereas Europe’s new ethnic minorities are marginalised, excluded and castigated, as recent events have shown.

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The torrent of racial abuse at Spanish matches is the product of a society that is in flux and is also uneasy with immigration. But don’t be complacent, warns Martin Jacques. This is an enemy that English football has yet to defeat

Getafe is a small industrial satellite town on the southern edge of Madrid. Its football ground is modest in the extreme, all-seated but covered on just one side, with a capacity of a mere 13,000. The ground is lined on two sides by soulless, multi-lane roads, on another by a building site and on the fourth by five-storey public housing. Getafe hardly seems the appropriate place to take the temperature of Spanish football. But on a Sunday evening in March, the club, lingering in the lower reaches of the Primera Liga, played Real Madrid . It may only be 15 kilometres from the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, Real’s temple to football in central Madrid, to the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez, Getafe’s humble home on its outskirts, but the clubs occupy two entirely different worlds.

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Long-running regional hostilities threaten the stability of east Asia

After being obliged by Tokyo to provide a seemingly endless series of documents, the cheerful official at the Japanese embassy in London eventually informed me that the person who helps to look after my little boy – and who happens to be Filipino – would be granted a visa to join us in Nagoya for four months. Alas, when she arrived at the airport, immigration officials interrogated her for over two hours, told her at one point that she would not be allowed in, and then finally agreed to admit her.

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At last China’s culture of racism is being contested by Chinese

Condoleezza Rice’s recent visit to east Asia concluded in Beijing, where she made clear her opposition to the new anti-secession law and her view that Japan should be a permanent member of the UN security council. With Sino-Japanese relations deteriorating and unification of Taiwan with China regarded as non-negotiable by the Chinese, it is hardly surprising that these remarks did not go down well. But what has not been reported in the western media is the reception Rice was given.

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Updated and expanded new Chinese edition just released.


Turkish edition just published!

When China Rules the World is the first book to fully conceive of and explain the upheaval that China’s ascendance will cause and the realigned global power structure it will create.

New edition available now from:

Amazon UK
and all good booksellers.

US second edition is available now via: 

Amazon US