ON Monday evening Burnley Football Club issued a fulsome apology following their 5-0 defeat by Manchester City. The apology didn’t relate to the events on the pitch but rather to a stunt that occurred moments before kick off when a plane flew over the Ethiad Stadium with a banner which read “White Lives Matter Burnley”.

Immediately after the game Burnley’s captain said: “We as a group of players condemn it, we’re ashamed, we’re embarrassed. It completely misses the point of what we’re trying to achieve as a football community.” The club followed with a statement in which it said: “We are fully behind the Premier League’s Black Lives Matter initiative. We apologise unreservedly to the Premier League, to Manchester City and to all those helping to promote Black Lives Matter.”

One of the odd things about “white lives matter” and the associated “all lives matter” chants heard at counter-demonstrations in Darlington and Newcastle over the weekend is that in a literal sense nobody in is in disagreement with either of those statements. But, as one recent cartoon has it, these chants are akin to the response of a bystander who when being told someone has broken their leg and needs help, replies by standing up and crossing their arms saying “what about my legs?”

Barack Obama made a similar point when he said: “I think that the reason that the organisers used the phrase Black Lives Matter was not because they were suggesting that no one else’s lives matter ... rather what they were suggesting was there is a specific problem that is happening in the African-American community that’s not happening in other communities.”

Both “all lives matter” and “white lives matter” are rooted in ideologies of white supremacy which are unapologetic in their naked racism. In America the White Lives Matter Group was founded in 2015 describing itself as “dedicated to promotion of the white race” arguing that “the fibre and integrity our nation was founded on is being unravelled….by homosexuality and racially mixed relationships.” One of its co-founders Rebecca Barnette has gone as far to call, on a posting on a website, that it is time for “the blood of our enemies to soak our soil to form new mortar to rebuild our landmasses.”

This is not America, but the killing of George Floyd has served as a wake up call in this country to racial injustices, both historic and current, faced by Black and Minority Ethnic communities. Whether it be the Windrush generation, Grenfell Tower or the factors behind the disproportionate impact of Covid on BAME communities, this is a time to acknowledge the brokenness, the challenges and to commit to act to fix them. When aeroplanes form Burnley and counter protestors from Newcastle to Darlington gather together to declare that “white lives matter” some of those chanting will do so in full knowledge of its racist undertones. But there will be others, whose own disenfranchisement and anger at their own situations and challenges will ask what about me? The choice before them is to blame those who suffer injustice or to join with them in seeking a levelling up which will come as a mutual benefit to all.