Racist Attack in Liverpool Raises Questions about How We “See” Racism

The BBC reports on the sentences just handed down in the stabbing death of a young man of mixed race, Marlon Moran 21, in south Liverpool (UK). The stabbing took place in May (2007). According to the BBC, Daniel Masher, 18, of Byron Street in Garston, was cleared of murder but found guilty of manslaughter and given an indeterminate sentence. Three other teenagers were cleared of murder at Liverpool Crown Court. There are a few noteworthy items in this story to me, looking at this report from another culture and across a huge bit of geographic distance and through the lens of critical race theory. First, it’s interesting to note the relatively light sentences handed down. Remarkable given that in our country we’re busy handing out life sentences to juveniles.

The other thing that I wanted to remark on is the “visual.” Marlon Moran If you check the photo of Michael Moran, who is described as “mixed race,” but to my American-eye, he appears to be “white.” So, is race “visible”? It was certainly “visible” enough to get this young man killed, according to the BBC report. There was in relatively recent U.S. history when immigrant groups we sometimes refer to as “white ethnics” (e.g., Irish, Italians, Jews) were regarded as “non-white.” What transpired over in that cultural transformation? Did people’s appearance change? Or, did the way the rest of society regard their appearance change? What is “visual” about ‘race’ and ‘racism’? Is it what we see, or how we look at those we regard as ‘other’?


  1. Jessie Author

    Thanks for the additional links, Matt. I guess one of my points was/is that racism gets taken-for-granted as “visual” or based on “visual cues.” I’ve heard this again and again, as with discussions of racial profiling. And, it is visual in some ways. But, even in the absence of those obvious visual cues, it’s remarkable to see it still in operation.

  2. Seattle in Texas

    I think perceptions and beliefs are relative and vary widely throughout this society…there are some who honestly believe only a select few are “white”…and many who don’t belong to organized hate groups think along the same lines…perhaps more or less by region, etc.? It’s a very strange category…and I think who fits depends on whom they are around, unless they are British, German, or Norwegian with no other heritages in their ancestry—then they are “white” all the way around no matter where they go…. Whooowa—just my thoughts….

  3. Seattle in Texas

    Sorry, further thoughts…I think there is an undeniable privilege that people who have lighter skin are bestowed in this society, and the more “Anglo” their features, perhaps the greater the privilege, the perhaps even the more “pure” their “pedigree” particularly if it is of “Anglo” descent, the greater becomes in the larger context (or perhaps smaller/elite?). But I think overall, Patricia Hill Collins has it right with her discussion on the intersections of race, gender, etc. when thinking about perceptions of race whether it be objectively or subjectively…. The Systemic Racism theory and work on White Racism would best address why the privileges might vary between groups who are assigned to the white group based on historical trajectories, but yet why those with lighter skin have some level of privilege over groups of color, regardless of gender, ethnicity, orientation, etc. I think by and large people most generally base their own conceptions of race first on skin color and physical features and in biological terms/understandings…. And mixed race does not equal “white” in this society either…it seems that it takes very little for somebody to be considered mixed or for the “pure whites”—“tainted”….

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