Ten years ago yesterday, Anthony Walker was chased into a park in Huyton and murdered because of his skin colour.
The racist killers hunted Anthony, who was of African descent, chasing him from a bus stop in Merseyside before bludgeoning him to death with an ice axe.
Paul Taylor, then 20, and his cousin Michael Barton, then 17 and brother of footballer Joey Barton, were found guilty of the 18 year old British student’s murder with three other people being charged with helping the pair when they went on the run. Taylor and Barton are serving life sentences for the crime.
“A racist attack of a type poisonous to any civilised society.”
– Lord Justice Leveson on the sentencing of Barton and Taylor for the murder of Anthony Walker.
The incident got a huge amount of media coverage, with Anthony’s funeral being broadcast live on television.
It’s safe to say this disgusting unprovoked act was one that shocked a nation and many hoped Anthony’s murder might act as a catalyst for change regarding racial prejudice in Great Britain.
As a port city, Liverpool has strong historic links with the slave trade, the horrific effects of which having forged scars on multicultural relations around the world. Though many changes to mentality have occurred since the days of black slaves being forced under the control of rich white people, Anthony Walker’s murder proved that in 2005, racist ideology still poisoned some white minds. It is with this in mind that we look at how, though somewhat improved in Britain in general, issues regarding racism are still extremely relevant in Merseyside.
Prior to Anthony’s death, concerns of racism had become apparent, when unrepeatable racist graffiti was daubed on posters outside of Liverpool’s International Slavery Museum. However, with the links to the slave trade already mentioned, even now there are still people spreading racial hatred on the museums advertisement. Recently, a sticker reading:
“MULTICULTURALISM IS GENOCIDE”
was stuck onto the museum’s sign. Swastikas and other far right emblems have also been appearing around the museum. Clearly, despite the museum’s desire to “challenge and educate” people’s preconceptions of race to ensure nothing like the slave trade ever begins to reoccur, there are some people in Merseyside firmly planted in racist ideologies that aren’t afraid to show it.
“People say Anthony Walker was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But should we live in a society where you can’t walk freely without getting an axe in your head because of your colour?“
– Dr. Richard Benjamin, Director of the Liverpool International Slavery Museum via The BBC
There is a proportion of people in Britain that see racism as an irrelevant issue, but the statistics disagree. While many of us may be collectively more modern-minded than to believe anyone is any less relevant as a human being because of their race, gender or sexuality, hate crimes are on the rise:
There have been 1700 race hate crimes in Merseyside in the past year – that’s a 13.4% increase on the statistic for a decade ago when Anthony Walker was murdered.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out there’s a problem. While statistics can’t prove how many people are thinking racist thoughts, an increase in race hate crimes indicates an increase in people who believe it is acceptable to directly commit a crime towards somebody because of their skin colour.
However, some of this increase may also have been contributed to by the increased willingness to respond to crimes of race hate. It is, of course, very difficult to prove any kind of police ignorance, so we cannot assume that this is the case, but members of the public may now be more likely to report crimes, for example. But along with an increase in people willing to call out racism, for example the now common use of the tag #blacklivesmatter following several unlawful shootings in the USA, the increased function of social media in society has no doubt given racists a free and easy platform upon which to proclaim their views to a large group of people.
Liverpool is famous for its multicultural identity. From everything from the slave trade to the Irish potato famine, Liverpool was a hotspot for immigration, whether forced or not. For this reason, many Liverpudlians have elements of foreign heritage, but many of these people are still white, therefore mostly avoiding the discrimination that occurs due to skin colour. Liverpool has the oldest black community in the UK, and yet it is still rife with “institutionalised” racism.
The hatred inflicted on the International Slavery Museum, however, is before we even take on the subject of racism in football.
Once you get past the magical mystery of the Beatles that engulfs part of Liverpool’s tourist pull, Merseyside is also home to two Premier League football teams, the love of this sport perhaps being the next biggest red and blue cultural slap you get upon entering.
However, as is true across the country, trouble with racism still runs in the veins of football, wherever you look in England.
Take Everton, for example. Emy Onuora, former Liverpool University student and author of Pitch Black: The Story of Black British Footballers, has compiled reactions he remembers to non-white players of the 1970s and 1980s. According to the Liverpool Echo, he recalls:
“One of the defining moments of my life came when I went to a game where Everton were playing Stoke and Garth Crooks came on as substitute…I must have been about 11 or 12 at the time and I’d never heard anything like 20,000 people giving a black guy racist abuse. I wasn’t naive, there were only about two or three black families in our school so of course I was familiar with racist taunts one-to-one but this was completely different, I’d never seen something on that scale before…There were monkey chants, people shouting ‘ni**er’ and ‘black b***ard’, coming from adults.”
This might have been a memory from over 30 years ago, but the point is that it set a precedent – Racial abuse at a football match is somehow different to abuse on the street, somehow more acceptable.
Fast forwarding to 2012, Liverpool FC were embroiled in a new race row when Oldham’s Tom Adeyemi made a complaint of racial abuse against a Liverpool supporter. With the 20 year old defender left in tears, play was immediately halted. Not long before this incident, Liverpool FC’s Luis Suárez had been handed an eight match ban for racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra. This was three years ago. In 2012, people still think it is acceptable to shout abuse at a sportsman based on the colour of his skin. While it is true that sanctions are now placed upon racial abusers at football matches, the presence of the abuse in the first place indicates a much wider problem off the pitch.
An article by CNN has taken on the issue of racism, particularly among Chelsea supporters, but the perspective this gives is extremely telling. Taking the deep-rooted problem of racial prejudice out of the football stadium, Sheena McKenzie explores how racist attitudes have become a solid part of “lad culture“. Personally I would recommend reading the article in full to draw your own conclusions, but, either way, thinking about the cultural impact of football and how that can expand into outside society is pretty valuable in an age where sometimes severely conflicting opinions are abundant.
This is just the beginning. Ten years after a horrendous attack on an innocent man, I have explored very few points, and within that ones only really focused on Merseyside. A drop in the ocean, racial prejudice is a whole lot bigger than one murder, and it’s no good just raging at one highly publicised incident on television and then going back to doing nothing.
Racism is ingrained in society. History will tell you that. So if you see it, hear it or witness it, call it out. Especially if it’s within yourself.