John Barnes appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to promote his new book The Uncomfortable Truth About Racism and discussed some of the key points from the book. Mr Barnes spoke with host Nihal Arthanayake about racism in society and said white people needed to address their unconscious bias on how they perceive the world and said they should “reconstruct” the way they see power relations in society. But the confusing, mangled rant was lost on listeners and Mr Arthanayake with the radio host miserably attempting to form Mr Barnes’ speedy assessment in a way that could be understood clearly.
Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, Mr Arthanayake asked what white people needed to change to address racism in society.
He argued many may not be “conscious” they are doing racist acts.
Mr Barnes agreed and said: “They absolutely aren’t conscious of feeling, that’s the point I’m making, it’s an unconscious perception of a person’s worth.
“And I completely understand why they have it, is completely understandable because of what life [has told them].”
Mr Barnes argued in history, the governance system has always been designed to have someone oppressed and an oppressor which has made people rank other people’s worth.
He added capitalism was always looking to oppress people whether it be women or white working-class people and said it was now black people who were seeing this oppression.
Mr Arthanayake asked how do white people address this with Mr Barnes stating they needed to “accept” the situation as he did.
The radio host asked “what next” which appeared to catch Mr Barnes off-guard before he told the station white people then needed to deconstruct how they think of figures.
He used Winston Churchill as an example and said the former Prime Minister was heralded as a hero but people needed to ask themselves why.
Mr Arthanayake challenged the ex-footballer and said most workplaces were making employees take unconscious bias training to address their bias and said the BBC made workers do it.
Mr Barnes appeared to contradict himself and said unconscious bias was a waste of time because of a scientific report.
He then confusingly argued the opinion was the official opinion of the Government who would be looking to belittle unconscious bias training for their own gain because they are in power.
Mr Arthanayake attempted to piece together the confusing statement and argued many people would be able to see through that as they were not “sheep”.
He added companies would then drop the training if it was not useful as it would cost resources and the training has been criticised by many across the political spectrum.
Earlier in the interview, Mr Arthanayake challenged Mr Barnes on the progress society has made with regards to equality of opportunity to which Mr Barnes was not convinced.
The radio host also stated music artists like Stormzy headlining large festivals was surely progressive to which the former footballer argued it was a victory for Stormzy but no one else.
Mr Arthanayake added it was also likely a victory for Stormzy’s team and area.
He concluded by saying everyone should look back in history to figure out why people are considered less than each other and to evaluate the oppressive capitalist system.
Listeners to the aggressive debate were put off by Mr Barnes’ delivery which they considered to be too quick and confusing.
Twitter user @Markysix commented: “Just listening to John Barnes ranting at 100mph on @bbc5live He’s a bit strange and desperate for me.”