Close to confirming a seven-time F-1 world championship, which could happen on Sunday (15), England’s Lewis Hamilton, 35, had also made a very special mark for 2020 for what he did outside the track.
This year, he has established himself as one of the main activist voices among athletes for his statements, the protests he led in front of general practitioners, and when he took to the streets at the Black Lives Matter demonstrations that erupted around the world on the eve of the start of the F-1 season.
In the opinion of Kehinde Andrews, Professor of Black Studies at Birmingham City University, the activity that makes him universally admired also limits his recognition among Britons themselves.
“A large portion of the population doesn’t like it when you’re ‘too black’ and take a stand. Hamilton could have been less stature to be more popular, but, giving him credit, he decided to be assertive,” Andrews says in an interview with Leaf.
The academic, Ph.D. in sociology and cultural studies, is also the author of books on racism and Contributor to the Guardian newspaper. According to him, many in the UK do not see Hamilton as British because of the color of his skin.
“He is, at best, ‘black British,’ which is different from being British. When Brits see white athletes, they identify with them. For many in this country, blacks will never represent them.”
How do you see the debate over racism in the UK? Only 3% of the UK population is black, and we are a minority. There are black people in a few places, like Birmingham [sua cidade-natal]Manchester, London, Leicester. Like in Brazil, we also have racism here, which creates problems with the police, in schools, in terms of opportunities. Lewis Hamilton is an exception as he became the only black Formula 1 driver in the elite sport. In the UK, there is a much higher chance of living in poverty if you are black.
Does British society still need to acknowledge the existence of racism in the country? We are a minority in the country, so people can try to ignore the problem. The British exported racism through slavery, so there weren’t many blacks in the country until recently, perhaps from the 1950s onwards. [passou a ter]. London is always on TV, and you see some black celebrities, but the truth is that in most of the country there are no black people, so it’s very easy to completely ignore the issue of racism. The discussion is about social classes. Lewis Hamilton is arguably the most famous athlete of all time in the UK. Look what he has already achieved. If it was white, there is no doubt that it would be seen that way. In the UK, racism is not talked about openly. Here people will be more polite and pretend not to be there. But let’s be honest: If Hamilton wasn’t black, he’d be more popular.
The reason is that the number one sport in the country is football and the British are not fans of Formula 1… Damon Hill [ex-piloto britânico de F-1, campeão mundial em 1996] He was a celebrity, hugely popular, and he didn’t have 10% of the talent of Lewis Hamilton. That’s an excuse. It’s the same He did with Meghan Markle [duquesa de Sussex]. When people say they don’t like him, they really mean: “He’s not one of us, and he doesn’t fit our profile.”
How is Hamilton’s activism towards the Black Lives Matter movement seen in the UK? People in the UK are polite and wouldn’t say it in public, but that wasn’t good. There is a large portion of the population that doesn’t like it when you’re “too black” and take a stand. Hamilton could have made himself less famous, but, giving him credit, he decided to be assertive and this cost him some popular support.
If a white athlete defended the importance of black lives, would he be more acceptable? The point is that Hamilton does not fit the picture of the British athlete. Many people do not consider him British. I, for example, was born here, my mother was born here [o pai de Kehinde nasceu na Jamaica]And a lot of people don’t think I’m British.
When Lewis Hamilton defends Black Lives Matter, that difference stands out. If a white athlete did that it would be different because he is automatically considered British. I guarantee Hamilton is not considered British to many people. He is, at best, “black British”, which is different from being British. When the British see white athletes, they identify with them. For many in this country, a black man would never represent them.
Can Lewis Hamilton’s activism help change the way some Britons think about racism? No, but a lot of people, in his place, would try to be “less black” to get public support and popular support as well. They will not talk about racism. Most black British sports stars say nothing about racial issues. The fact that Hamilton is very successful and defends himself is a representative of black people in this country, and that is very powerful. In this sense, it has a positive effect.
Do you think he will one day be honored in the UK for his accomplishments? There are no opportunities. He would get some recognition because it would be impossible not to, despite all he’s achieved. But Hamilton is the greatest British athlete of all time and he will never receive worthy recognition because he is black. My family grew up in the Caribbean.
When my father was born there, the place was part of the British Empire, but that is not understood by the people here. It is clear to me that we are considered aliens, we do not belong here and we should be grateful. I have been told many times to “leave the country and go home”. Where to go? I was born here, and so are all these people. But that’s it, the definition of being British is being white. You will never be accepted the same way if you are black.