Hold­ing de­liv­ers the finest spell with pas­sion­ate so­lil­o­quy on race

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport First Test - Tim Wig­more

There may have been no play on the first morn­ing at the Ageas Bowl but a for­mer West In­dian pace­man still chose the mo­ment to de­liver one of the finest spells the ground has seen.

Michael Hold­ing did so not with a ball in his hand, but with a mi­cro­phone. Over four min­utes and 45 sec­onds of spell­bind­ing tele­vi­sion he em­barked on a near-700 word un­bro­ken so­lil­o­quy that ex­plained per­fectly why the England and West Indies play­ers were ready to take the knee in sup­port of Black Lives Mat­ter.

He talked of in­sti­tu­tion­alised racism and “brain­wash­ing”, how the pub­lic’s ig­no­rance of Lewis Howard La­timer – the in­ven­tor of the car­bon fil­a­ment light bulb – was symp­to­matic of a lack of ed­u­ca­tion around what black peo­ple have achieved, and how that ig­no­rance con­trib­utes to the anger we are see­ing.

Hold­ing’s voice cracked at the end of his speech but, com­ing as it did af­ter an ac­com­plished preBy recorded piece along­side Ebony Rain­ford-Brent on the racism they suf­fered in their ca­reers, it per­fectly set the tone for the wider is­sues around this Test and sport in gen­eral. “The de­hu­man­i­sa­tion of the black race is where it started. Peo­ple will tell you ‘that’s a long time ago, get over it’,” Hold­ing said on Sky Sports. “No, you don’t get over things like that and society has not got­ten over some­thing like that.

“How do you get rid of that in society? By ed­u­cat­ing both sides – black and white.

“I hope peo­ple re­alise this Black

Lives Mat­ter move­ment is not try­ing to get black peo­ple above white peo­ple or any­one else, it is all about equal­ity. When you see some­body re­act to Black Lives Mat­ter with ‘all lives mat­ter’ or ‘white lives mat­ter’, please, we black peo­ple know that white lives mat­ter. I don’t think you know that black lives mat­ter.

“So don’t shout back at us that all lives mat­ter. The ev­i­dence is clearly there that white lives mat­ter, we want black lives to mat­ter now as well. It’s as sim­ple as that.

“His­tory is writ­ten by the con­queror, not by those who are con­quered. His­tory is writ­ten by the peo­ple who do the harm­ing, not those who are harmed.”

Beginning to ad­dress the lack of black per­son­nel in the English game has been a ma­jor is­sue in the past few weeks. A fort­night ago Lons­dale Skin­ner, chair­man of the African-Caribbean Crick­eters’ As­so­ci­a­tion, told The Daily Tele­graph he wanted a black QC to lead a “root-and-branch re­view” of how the England and Wales Cricket Board have “de­lib­er­ately ex­cluded” the black com­mu­nity from the game over the past 30 years.

Tom Har­ri­son, the chief ex­ec­u­tive, said cricket had “very dif­fi­cult truths to face” as he un­veiled a raft of mea­sures to in­crease black rep­re­sen­ta­tion through­out the game.

Few things the board does will be as vis­i­ble as the knee the en­tire team took shortly be­fore the start of play; open­ers Rory Burns and Dom Si­b­ley out on the pitch along­side the West Indies team, the re­main­der of the squad and staff around the bound­ary. Both teams had al­ready agreed to wear lo­gos on their shirts but the de­ci­sion to take a knee to­gether aimed to make an even more pow­er­ful state­ment.

“It was a good feel­ing be­cause we have to make change,” said West Indies as­sis­tant coach Roddy Est­wick. “For us it’s all about hon­esty, it’s all about treat­ing ev­ery­body equally. And for us, that was very, very im­por­tant.”

For all the pow­er­ful sym­bol­ism there are ques­tions over whether the ECB’s new mea­sures will go far enough. Ad­dress­ing the de­cline in black crick­eters – the num­ber of black Bri­tish play­ers in county cricket has fallen from 33 to nine since 1994 – is a long-term am­bi­tion. As Rain­ford-Brent pointed out, grap­pling with these is­sues will re­quire greater board­room di­ver­sity – none of the chief ex­ec­u­tives or chair­men across the 18 first­class coun­ties are black.

“In our world of sport, peo­ple say there aren’t any in­equal­i­ties but sta­tis­tics have come out that there are al­most zero black peo­ple in any boards in our gov­ern­ing bod­ies. What does that say?”

It says this is a sport that re­quires pro­found change. But Hold­ing (left) said a lot – and so, with one pow­er­ful ac­tion, did the England and West Indies teams.

Sym­bolic mo­ment: West Indies play­ers take the knee be­fore the first ball yes­ter­day

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