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Home  »   BAME   »   Not being racist is not enough, we must be anti-racist

Not being racist is not enough, we must be anti-racist

The trade union movement represents workers in many professions, sectors, and roles. The movement includes professional sportspeople and the Assistant Director for Education at the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), Oshor Williams. Recently, Oshor shared an experience from his playing days as a winger at Stockport County FC, which highlighted why just not being racist is not enough.

Fri 27th October 2023 The PDA

I remember meeting Tommy Sword for the first time in the stadium players’ lounge after a match in the late 1970s. We had a drink and a chat, and he told me he was heading back to Newcastle for the weekend. When I told him I was also going back to Teesside he offered to drop me off on his way home.

I didn’t have a car back then but Tommy had a shiny orange Cortina Mark 3 with a black vinyl roof, which may not sound much nowadays, but back then it was a pretty impressive ride, particularly when compared to a four-hour bus trip back to Stockton. So, I picked up an overnight bag from my digs and we headed out of town. Just as we pulled up at traffic lights a group of lads approached shouting aggressively and glaring menacingly. When they reached us one of them stopped and made a loud racist remark.

In a flash, Tommy kicked open his door, leaped from the car, and marched up to the gang targeting the perpetrator directly. He grabbed his lapels and angrily invited him to repeat what he’d just said. Confronted by an enraged 6’ 2” Geordie roofer turned footballer both the abuser and his cronies quickly became sober and apologising profusely.

Tommy and I got back in the car and continued towards the Motorway. I sat for a moment watching him fume silently until we picked up the M60 by which time he’d calmed down and the conversation began to flow. We talked about football, family, and familiar Northeast clubs and pubs we both knew. But behind the conversation, I was still processing the fact that this person whom I’d only just met put his body on the line to defend me with little thought for his own safety and welfare. It was an abject lesson in the difference between non-racism and anti-racism.

This difference is best explained in the words of ex-NBA star and a famous son of Stockport, John Amaechi who explains, “Sometimes, we sit and we look around us and we think, ‘how can I possibly change all this?’ and sometimes you can’t. But what you can do is make sure wherever you go, people know where you stand. They know that you’re an anti-racist. You become a beacon of light that way. You become someone who makes other people want to be anti-racist too. You’ve got tools at your disposal. Learn. Read. And make everybody clear where you stand.”

Tommy demonstrated where he stood on that night and it is little wonder that our friendship has endured for over 40 years.

By Assistant Director for Education at the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), Oshor Williams. The PFA is the trade union for professional footballers in the UK and a fellow affiliate alongside the PDA in the GFTU.

Oshor Williams is a former professional footballer whose clubs include Southampton, Stockport County, Port Vale, and Preston North End. He is the Assistant Director of Education for the Professional Footballers’ Association, the players’ union. Oshor is also active within the wider trade union movement serving as a member of the Executive Committee of the General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU). In 2019 he became the first black President of the GFTU in its 120-year history.

The PDA BAME Network is grateful to Oshor for sharing his story and is proud to work with the PFA and the other GFTU-affiliated unions to fight racism wherever it manifests.

Get involved

  • Follow the PDA BAME Network on social media using #PDAbame
  • For more information about the PDA BAME Network, click here.
  • If you would like to get involved with the network and its activities, email bame@the-pda.org
  • Join the PDA BAME Network here.

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