Holding delivers the finest spell with passionate soliloquy on race
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