I don’t care that Reading lost last night because, and I still can’t quite believe I’m typing this, when I saw a vile racist tweet concerning Liam Moore, all football-related matters paled into insignificance.
When I saw it, I felt uncontrollably angry. I felt sick. I know those are very basic words, but it’s impossible to describe it in any other way. It was a punch in the stomach.
I say that as a white man who it doesn’t directly affect. I am in a position of privilege. I have never suffered any form of racist abuse or anything close. I have never had to worry about prejudice because of the colour of my skin. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain Liam felt when he saw that tweet last night.
It’s often hard to convey emotion and tone over social media, but there was no doubting his feelings. He was angry. Hurt. Upset. Tired. He was in such a state of distress that he decided to deactivate his account.
How have we allowed it to come to that? Our captain. One of our most honest, approachable and dedicated players. How have we created a space so toxic?
Twitter and all other social media companies have the power to do more, we know that. But that’s been said enough times. Writing to Twitter won’t help. Twitter - I am aware they are not one being - will not read this. I do hope someone with any miniscule of power at the company sees the increasing calls for action and does something about it, but this is an issue that goes way beyond the internet.
I write to anyone who is reading this. That might end up being no one, because right now I’ve just told Sim I want to go on an angry rant and I don’t care if it’s published. But if this is out there, then I am writing to you. Be f*cking better.
That is not an assumption or accusation of any wrongdoing. But this problem starts and ends with us. You and me. People. It is people who hold these views. It is people who provide the space for these views. It is people who these views hurt. This is a people problem. A societal problem. Social media is just the platform it all bears out on.
Do not stand by and let this carry on happening. Send supportive tweets, show your disgust - that’s one step. But public discontent is only half of the battle. Call out messages on private group chats, stand up against comments that are made in passing. Do not joke. Do not encourage someone. Be part of the solution, not the problem.
Because I can guarantee that someone out there will know who is behind the account that sent that tweet last night. Someone will have spoken to that account in private. Be a grass. Do not protect them. They do not deserve to have their anonymity kept intact.
That tweet was sent for attention and a reaction. I’m sure of it. In someone’s sick, twisted brain, they thought it would be a really funny way to show off.
So let’s make sure there is a reaction that goes beyond social media outrage. Let’s make sure the person is identified. Let’s make sure the person is prosecuted and suffers the consequences for their actions. Let’s make sure this doesn’t happen again.