RACISM is wrong and has no place in modern society.

That should really be the beginning and end of the column there, job done.

But of course not. Of course it's more complex than that because, despite black and minority ethnic communities telling their white neighbours and white friends and white colleagues there is a problem in this country, not everyone is willing to listen.

On Friday last week alternative street names appeared in Glasgow city centre - under Buchanan Street a sign had been placed reading George Floyd Street. Ingram Street was labelled Harriet Tubman Street; Wilson Street rebranded Rosa Parks Street; Cochrane Street to Sheku Bayoh Street, and on.

Of course, the impetus for this is the international swelling of Black Lives Matter campaigning, a response to the horrific killing of unarmed black American George Floyd, who died of asphyxiation as a police officer knelt on his neck.

I shared the images on Twitter and the response was, well, mixed. Largely, the response was positive - praise for the bold sign makers. Others were concerned about damage to historic buildings and other again unhappy at matters being taken into hand without official civic approval.

Then there was a change.

When a group aligned to a Glasgow football team claimed responsibility for putting up the signs, my Twitter notifications became a mess of fury from supporters of the rival football team who suddenly emerged to rage about the street signs when they had been silent before.

READ MORE: 'Without slavery Glasgow wouldn't exist': The brutal truth about Scotland's slaving past 

If you are against attempts to address racism because you're automatically not keen on who's making those attempts, then maybe you need to rethink your principles.

But the pushback from certain quarters is interesting and I wonder how or if it can be tackled. Racism is undoubtedly a problem in Scotland and Britain. If you are black in this country you have a higher chance of living in poverty, being unemployed, being incarcerated. You are more likely to have been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 crisis, both in health terms and financial impact.

As the writer Clare Heughan pointed out in an excellent column at the weekend, only 1.8 per cent of civil servants in Scotland are people of colour. There are only 10 ethnic minority civil servants at the top level.

We live in a city built on money made on the back of slaves. And yet, as a society, we seem to know little about the colonial legacy, despite it being all around us. In a short space of less than a mile in Glasgow's city centre there are street names and buildings called after five plantation owners.

Glasgow City Council is looking to address this gap in our collective knowledge by funding a research project looking at how the city's slavery and slave trade history might be incorporated into its culture plan.

Glasgow University will raise and spend £20 million as an acknowledgement the institution benefited from the slave trade. These reparations will go to setting up the Glasgow-Caribbean Centre for Development Research. The university's vice-chancellor described it as a "moral step".

We are, though, running to catch up with other cities, such as Bristol and Liverpool, where these conversations have been ongoing for much longer. Of course, at the weekend, frustration at lack of progress in dealing with a statue of slave trader Edward Colston saw it torn down by protestors and rolled into the harbour.

It's perhaps a message to our council to make sure work is more fleet.

We are not the only country having these conversations. In the Netherlands there have been discussions too about how to approach the country's colonial past with a primary school named for a Dutch East Indies governor changed and changes to museum names. In Barcelona there have been period calls to remove the statue of Christopher Columbus due to his association with genocide.

And of course, in America the debate about removing Confederate statues rumbles on.

To have honest conversations about our imperial past and our racist present requires open acknowledgement and empathetic listening. Instead, there have been the usual reductive, pathetic retorts of "Well, all lives matter," or, "Why isn't there a [Insert White Person's Name] Street?" Another classic: "This is all going too far now."

These are embarrassingly silly arguments. Does removal of street names or statues erase history or highlight history? That's a legitimate argument. "Why don't you want to rename it Jock Stein Street?" is emphatically not.

READ MORE: Campaigners call for education over revision when it comes to slaving past 

We all accept the idiom "Nobody's perfect". So, if nobody's perfect then we must acknowledge we all have room for improvement.

Yet for some people, as soon as the word "racism" is mentioned, they become defensive. They take personal offence. The only way to ever fix a problem is to acknowledge it exists. Only then can you start to apologise, make amends and develop solutions.

There is a conversation underway and it's a vital one. Prickly defensiveness from people who can't or don't want to see a problem will take us nowhere. If it offends you to be called racist then don't behave like a racist, don't share racist attitudes. Please put your own self-importance aside for a minute and just listen.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.