Raheem Sterling is a 23 year old father. He is a Jamaican by birth. British by trade. He is also a Golden Boy recipient and one of the highest paid under 23’s in the world. A feat achieved by making bold decisions, such as choosing football over a life of crime, and working increasingly hard to reach the very top of the football pyramid and to stay there. In our #TMThursday poll on the 31st May 2018, we asked about the media’s reaction & your opinion on Raheem Sterling’s assault rifle tattoo.
As I expected, (cause you guys are woke!), the majority called it out for what it was: veiled racism. Yes I believe that regardless of race there would have been some concern about the tattoo, but the issue was clearly magnified due to him being a black man. Many took to Twitter, including celebrities, to condemn the right-wing press for their campaign against Raheem. A powerful thread was produced by Adam Keyworth that exposed a very telling narrative on their treatment of Sterling, dating back to 2014 when he was just 19 years old. The Daily Mail, The Sun and and other right wing mediums have been consistent with their attitudes towards black people, whether at the top of their careers or at the lower end. It seems as though, in their opinion, black people are either thugs, ex-thugs but now we just have criminal relatives or chancers who should be grateful to even have any level of success. We are TIRED.
With the World Cup coming and 11 out of the 23 players representing England being either Black or mixed race, you would think that the media would try to focus on stories that would uplift and embolden the players to perform with their country’s backing. Instead, we have seen that the need to tear down and satisfy their loyal readers insatiable appetite for the reaffirmation of black stereotypes.
The reality is, as soon as ‘black man’ and ‘gun’ are in the same sentence, it usually ends badly. So the reaction to the tattoo isn’t entirely surprising, but the fact is that it should not be this way. A discussion or debate could be had, without the irrational berating of a fellow human being. I believe that a beneficial conversation about role models could have been had, if the energy behind the recent response and past articles had been different.
Would I get a tattoo of an AK-47 rifle? No. Was it the wisest idea in the midst of the spate of violent killings we’ve had across London and in the US? No. But I haven’t had the experiences that Raheem has had. As this tattoo has such significant sentimental value for him I’m sure the potential backlash, that he no doubt saw coming, paled in comparison to the satisfaction he would have received from getting it done. As evidenced by his subsequent response to the furore, Raheem seemed quite relaxed and unshaken when speaking to the media post-tattoo-gate. Unfortunately, I fear Raheem may have become well-accustomed to the negative coverage of him.
As a black person, I am aware of the prejudices against my race, therefore, whenever a negative story comes out attached to a black person, I immediately need to read the story and find the context. I know that for people of different races, negative connotations are attached to us and as a result, any inkling of bad behaviour, the knee-jerk reaction is to believe immediately and condemn.
Context sheds light on an act or words spoken. So, whilst in isolation, a gun tattoo could seem reprehensible, but with context revealing the full picture, you can begin to understand the thought-process behind the tattoo. You still may not believe this was the best way for him to commemorate the loss of his father to gun violence, and that’s okay. It’s not for you.