Racism doesn’t just exist online – Lauren James on receiving social media abuse

PA Sport Staff
·3-min read

Lauren James says there have been times when she has been made to feel aware of the colour of her skin while shopping in the supermarket.

Writing in the Telegraph, the 19-year-old Manchester United forward has spoken not only about the online racist abuse she suffered last week but also other distressing experiences she has had.

James said: “Over the weekend was the first time that I’d experienced racist abuse on social media. But it wasn’t the first time that I’d been made to feel aware of the colour of my skin.

James (right) says she has had people
James (right) says she has had people “look at you in a certain way” when she has been shopping (Mike Egerton/PA).

“Racism doesn’t just exist online, of course. It can be in the everyday things – even just going to the supermarket. There are times I’ve been to get my shopping and you get that feeling that people are intimidated by your presence.

“They’ll move away, pull their children in closer or just look at you in a certain way. It’s difficult to talk about. It’s obviously not a nice experience, but I try to just carry on with my day.”

James last week shared on Instagram a screenshot of racist abuse she had received.

That was among a number of cases of footballers receiving online racist abuse over recent days, with James’ brother, Chelsea full-back Reece James, another to have been targeted.

Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, on Wednesday announced new measures, including removing accounts, to tackle online abuse.

On Thursday, an open letter from all the game’s major governing bodies to Twitter and Facebook’s chief executives Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg urged those platforms, along with Instagram which is owned by Facebook, to do more to stamp out abuse.

As well as an improved verification process which would make it easier for police to identify who the holder of an account is, the letter calls for users who engage in abusive behaviour to be barred from re-registering an account.

James says she was left “hurt” by comments on her Instagram feed and believes more needs to be done to identify those sending the messages.

“Facebook have announced that they will take tougher sanctions on abusive messages. It’s a great start but more needs to be done by social media platforms to put an end to this,” James added.

“The easiest way to racially abuse someone – without actually typing the words – is to use the monkey, gorilla or banana emojis. We all know what is intended when those emojis are used or when you see comments like ‘black lives don’t matter’, yet social media companies pretend to be blind to it.

“If we are serious about change then there has to be an end to anonymous accounts. Because at the moment anyone can create an account and write hurtful comments, hiding behind fake names and pictures.”