Mainly, Rock Against Racism was a direct response to Eric Clapton's remarks made during a concert in 1976 (via).
Do we have any foreigners in the audience tonight? If so, please put up your hands. Wogs I mean, I'm looking at you. Where are you? I'm sorry but some fucking wog...Arab grabbed my wife's bum, you know? Surely got to be said, yeah this is what all the fucking foreigners and wogs over here are like, just disgusting, that's just the truth, yeah. So where are you? Well wherever you all are, I think you should all just leave. Not just leave the hall, leave our country. You fucking (indecipherable). I don't want you here, in the room or in my country. Listen to me, man! I think we should vote for Enoch Powell. Enoch's our man. I think Enoch's right, I think we should send them all back. Stop Britain from becoming a black colony. Get the foreigners out. Get the wogs out. Get the coons out. Keep Britain white. I used to be into dope, now I'm into racism. It's much heavier, man. Fucking wogs, man. Fucking Saudis taking over London. Bastard wogs. Britain is becoming overcrowded and Enoch will stop it and send them all back. The black wogs and coons and Arabs and fucking Jamaicans and fucking (indecipherable) don't belong here, we don't want them here. This is England, this is a white country, we don't want any black wogs and coons living here. We need to make clear to them they are not welcome. England is for white people, man. We are a white country. I don't want fucking wogs living next to me with their standards. This is Great Britain, a white country, what is happening to us, for fuck's sake? We need to vote for Enoch Powell, he's a great man, speaking truth. Vote for Enoch, he's our man, he's on our side, he'll look after us. I want all of you here to vote for Enoch, support him, he's on our side. Enoch for Prime Minister! Throw the wogs out! Keep Britain white! (via)The same Eric Clapton was a big fan of the black blues musician Muddy Waters who highly influenced Clapton's music career (via). The same Eric Clapton called the black musician Robert Leroy Johnson "the most important blues singer that ever lived" (via). And it was Eric Clapton who had a No. 1 single with Bob Marley's reggae classic "I Shot the Sheriff" which "also helped send his second solo album to the top of the chart" (via). Understanding racism probably requires understanding a very specific logic that is based on a highly selective perception.
"Before Rock against Racism there was a sense that it was OK to be racist."
"What mattered was the fact that we all took part in an astonishing celebration of music, fun, justice and the politics of tolerance. The struggle for a more just and civilised society is an ongoing fight that each generation has to carry forward."
"Rock against Racism made it cool to be anti-racist."
photographs by Syd Shelton via and via and by Chris Steele-Perkins via and by Syd Shelton again via and via and via