A report by Elizabeth Ammon for The Times of London.
Michael Holding has given an emotional plea for change and better education to combat racism. The rain delay on the opening day of the first Test gave the opportunity for powerful interviews with the former West Indies fast bowler and Ebony Rainford-Brent, the first black woman to play cricket for England, on their experiences of racism and why the Black Lives Matter movement is vital.
“When people reply to me saying ‘all lives matter’ or ‘white lives matter’ — please,” Holding said. “We black people know white lives matter — I don’t think you know black lives matter. So please don’t shout back ‘white lives matter’; the evidence is clearly there that white lives matter. We want black lives to matter now.”
Holding, 66, who took 249 Test wickets for West Indies, and is regarded as one of the game’s greatest fast bowlers, said that he experienced very little racism growing up in Jamaica and that he encountered it for the first time touring in Australia and England. The solution, he said, was widespread teaching on the genesis and spread of racism.
“Education is important unless we want to continue living like this and having demonstrations every now and again,” he said. “When I say education, I mean going back in history. People need to understand this thing stems from hundreds of years ago. The dehumanisation of the black race is where it started. People say ‘that was a long time ago, get over it’. No you don’t get over something like that.
“How do you get rid of it in society? By educating people both black and white. I hear people talking about brainwashing and I didn’t understand as a young man what that meant but now I understand. We have been brainwashed in different ways.”
In a segment with Rainford-Brent, Holding referenced the 1984 West Indies Test series against England, which the tourists won 5-0 and was celebrated with signs that said “blackwash” — something Holding feels was a necessary action by people from the Caribbean living in England. He said: “What is this whitewash thing? Why has everything good got to be white?”
He drew attention to the way that type of division pervades our education. “Think about religion,” he said. “I am not really a very holy person but we were taught — the images we see of Jesus Christ. Pale skin, blond hair, blue eyes. Where Jesus came from, who in that part of the world looks that way? That is the brainwashing — to tell you ‘this is what the image of perfection is’.
“If you look at images of Judas, portrayed as a black man. Again, brainwashed into thinking — oh, a black man, he’s the bad man. Another example. You can tell me who invented the lightbulb: Thomas Edison. Everybody knows that he invented the lightbulb, but he invented a lightbulb with a paper filament — it burnt out in no time at all. Can you tell me who invented the filament that makes our lights shine? Nobody knows because it was black man. It is not taught in schools. His name was Lewis Howard Latimer — he invented the carbon filament.
“Everything should be taught. I was never taught anything good about black people and you can’t have a society that only teaches what is convenient. History is written by the conquerers not those that were conquered. History is written by the people who do the harm, not by those who get harmed, and we need to go back and teach both sides of history and until we do that and educate the enture human race, this thing will not stop.
“People tell me there is no such thing as white privilege — give me a break. A white person going into a shop is not being followed. A black man goes in, he is followed everywhere he goes. That is basic white privilege. Whether the white person is going to rob the place or not he is not thought of that way. And things have to change.”
Rainford-Brent, who was a World Cup winner in 2009 and she sits on the Surrey management board, told The Times last month of her struggles with racism in cricket and elaborated on those this morning.
“I grew up in a very multicultural diverse London, with all sorts of colours, Black, White, Asian, everyone,” she said. “It was a melting pot. I noticed as soon as I walked into the world of cricket, comments started.”
“I had comments about where I grew up. The fact that I had a long name, maybe I didn’t know who my dads were, about my hair, about body parts, especially the derriere, shall we say, about the food I ate and that it stank. It was just constant. Did I wash my skin? Everyone in your area gets stabbed. All these sort of things were drip fed constantly.
“I’ve been in team environments, dealing constantly with people referring to ‘Your lot’. I’m not surprised that people coming into the environment don’t want to deal with that. I questioned myself sometimes why I stayed so long. I love the game, I think it has so much more to offer, but it can be really difficult dealing with that, day in, day out.”
Nasser Hussain, the former England captain who was born in India, also said that he had experienced racism growing up in London and gave an impassioned defence of wearing the Black Lives Matter logo.
“People will be tuning in saying, ‘Not this again — this is cricket, this is our game,’ ” he said. “We play with and against black cricketers, we commentate with black cricketers. The history between England and West Indies — the proper history not just the cricketing history — makes it so important to wear these BLM badges.
“All I would say to those people who say ‘not again’ is, I sat there six weeks ago, I put the news on and watched a black man being killed in front of my eyes and my natural reaction was to look away. This is someone’s dad, someone’s brother, someone’s son being killed in front of your eyes.
“The next time it came on, because of the protests, I forced myself to watch because I felt something inside me say, ‘Nas, you’ve been looking away too long.’ We have all been looking away too long, The players should be proud of wearing these badges, we should be proud of wearing these badges but really it’s 2020. We have to wear a badge saying Black Lives Matter? That should be a given.”