USA TODAY International Edition

F1 driver Lewis Hamilton fights anti- Blackness

- Mike Freeman Columnist USA TODAY

In February for Black History Month, USA TODAY Sports is publishing the series “28 Black Stories in 28 Days.” We examine the issues, challenges and opportunit­ies Black athletes and sports officials continue to face after the nation’s reckoning on race following the murder of George Floyd in 2020. This is the third annual installmen­t of the series.

There was a story last month that didn’t get the attention it deserved but was actually highly instructio­nal. It was about Formula 1 seven- time world champion Lewis Hamilton.

In the Jan. 23 podcast “On Purpose with Jay Shetty,” Hamilton spoke about the racial abuse he received growing up.

“School was the most traumatizi­ng and most difficult part of my life,” he said.

“I was already being bullied at the age of 6. At that particular school, I was one of three kids of color, and just bigger, stronger, bullying kids were throwing me around a lot of the time.”

“And the constant jabs, the things that are either thrown at you, like bananas, or people that would use the N- word just so relaxed. People calling you half- caste and not knowing where you fit in. That was difficult,” he added.

“In my ( secondary) school, there were six or seven Black kids out of 1,200 kids, and three of us were put outside the headmaster­s’ office all the time. I felt the system was up against me and I was swimming against the tide. …

“There were a lot of things I suppressed. I didn’t feel I could go home and tell my parents that these kids kept calling me the N- word or I got bullied or beaten up at school today, or I wasn’t able to defend myself.

“I didn’t want my dad to think I was not strong.”

Hamilton has become one of the leading athletes in all of profession­al sports who fights racism. In many ways, he’s dedicated his life to it, and his background of being racially bullied might explain why.

Anyone who has endured that type of extreme racism can speak to the pain it causes, and perhaps even the lifelong trauma that doesn’t easily leave you. If it ever does.

I don’t speak for all Black people ( that job doesn’t pay enough), but my guess is most feel the way I do about the following: If you’ve been bullied in that way, you almost feel obligated spending your life fighting it, in the best way you can. You do it to make things better for others like you, but also, the only thing that will stop racism is bringing attention to it. You have to discuss it, identify it, label it, before you can defeat it.

That’s the reason ( I think) Hamilton told this story. Not just to show what he endured but what it’s like for many people who look like him and have gone through the same thing.

He doesn’t just preach this, he lives it.

Hamilton, the only Black driver in F1, launched an initiative in 2021 to diversify the sport and he spoke out after being called a racial slur by three- time F1 champion Nelson Piquet.

“It’s more than language. These are archaic mindsets ( that) need to change and have no place in our sport,” Hamilton said on Twitter after the incident. “I’ve been surrounded by these attitudes and targeted my whole life. There has been plenty of time to learn. Time has come for action.”

Hamilton has since done plenty. Hopefully people pay attention.

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