Former international footballer John Barnes has accused authors such as Agatha Christie, Rudyard Kipling and Edgar Rice Burroughs for making Britain a country of 'passive racists'.
The ex-Liverpool winger insisted classic tales such as Ten Little Indians, Tarzan of the Apes and The Jungle Book have instilled bigotry in the minds of generations of British children.
Barnes launched his fierce attack on literature in a lecture to students at Liverpool University about the causes of racism in football.he father of seven told the audience that 'passive racism is inherent in all of us' because of 'preconceived ideas' planted through books and films.
"Over the last 200 years we have had negative images of black people ... in literature by Rudyard Kipling to Agatha Christie. Tarzan showed that," he said.
"Racism came from the idea of race, which is a man-made construct. Race is not scientific or genetic. It does not actually exist. Race came about to validate and justify colonialism and slavery," he insisted.
"There are examples everywhere. Rudyard Kipling, one of our greatest heroes, wrote The White Man's Burden, in which he wrote it was incumbent on the Americans to go and civilise the savages in the Philippines.
"Colonialism in Africa - Agatha Christie wrote a book called Ten Little N*****s. Would we accuse Agatha Christie of being racist? No, but that is passive racism," he added.
Barnes moved to England aged 13 in the late 1970s when his father was Jamaica's military attache to London. He is among England's most-capped black players, but at Liverpool FC he was regularly subjected to racist abuse from spectators and infamously had a banana hurled at him during a Merseyside derby with Everton at Goodison Park.
Twice married, Barnes has called for the National Curriculum to be revised so all children are taught that race is only a concept.
"If we get rid of passive racism then overcoming overt racism will take care of itself," he suggested.
However, Ross Dawson, a senior lecture in English at Liverpool John Moores University, denied Barnes had branded the authors as racists.
"He identified the contemporary idea of race and racism as originating in the history of transatlantic slavery and colonialism. These were three writers, which he used as examples of popular national literature, which reproduced these racial assumptions," he said.
"His reference to passive racism was an attempt to show how we all have assumptions about race... without really understanding where those assumptions come from," he added. (ANI)