Soccer hooliganism just got post-modern. In an amateur video posted on YouTube on Tuesday night, a group of British fans are seen stopping a black man boarding a train in Paris. They’re heard chanting, not racist slurs, but a self-referential near-parody: “We’re racist, we’re racist, and that’s the way we like it.”
British soccer has treated racism as a serious taboo since the early 1990s, with public campaigns like ‘Let’s Kick Racism Out of Football.’ That doesn’t mean it has disappeared from fan culture, or elsewhere, far from it. The YouTube video is an ugly reminder of that.
In the video, a black man is seen trying to board a train packed with white, British football supporters on the Paris metro. The fans chant the name of the London club Chelsea, which was in town to play against the local team Paris St. Germain. After the first attempt to board, the man is pushed hard in the chest by several hands, and steps back.
He tries again, and is pushed again. The video then cuts and starts back up, closer. By now, the men on the train are chanting their weirdly self-aware song. An older black woman is standing on the platform, watching them. As the doors begin to shut, a young black women steps out of the bullying throng and walks away.
Perhaps this is the last gasp of a racism trying to sustain itself, but turning inward, becoming more about identity than about fear of ‘the other.’ Perhaps that’s wishful thinking. The world of sport will be quick to condemn. Chelsea itself called the behavior “abhorrent“. And the number of times the video has been shared is—hopefully—a sign that more people find this behavior shocking than ever before.