‘Systemic racism is across the world… I experienced that a lot’: Lewis Hamilton explains obstacles of growing up in the UK and ‘white dominated’ F1 while Arsenal legend Thierry Henry recalls his shock after being called a ‘black s***’ on live TV
- Lewis Hamilton opened up on his experiences dealing with racism in the UK
- The Mercedes star said he was the only black driver on the circuit growing up
- Thierry Henry explained his obstacles when he moved to the US to play in MLS
- The Arsenal legend said that he was called a ‘black s***’ live on television
Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton opened up on his experiences growing up in the UK dealing with racism and being part of a ‘white dominated’ sport.
The Mercedes driver has been an instrumental figure in F1’s campaigning against racism and promotion of the Black Lives Matter movement on race weekends.
Hamilton spoke with footballing legend Thierry Henry and Olympic great Tommie Smith – in a chat organised by Puma – to discuss racism they experienced in sport between three different generations.
Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton opened up on his experiences growing up with racism
Hamilton had been an instrumental figure in Formula One’s support to end racism
The Mercedes driver has been very active in his support for the Black Lives Matter movement
Hamilton said: ‘I’m in a sport which is white dominated and there is very little diversity, for example. And with everything that happened in the states, it really brought up a lot of emotions for me.
‘A lot of people think it is only happening in the states. Yes, there is the police brutality in the states but systemic racism is across the world.
‘Very much in Europe and England. I experienced that a lot growing up in the UK and then when I started driving race cars.
‘This year it has come around and I have got the sport now to acknowledge that it needs to do more.’
The 35-year-old said that F1 is a ‘white dominated’ sport and spoke about his early days racing
The 35-year-old Mercedes driver also opened up on his early days in driving as a junior, when he and his father would be the only black people on the race scene.
He added: ‘When I was going to those races as a kid, we were the only black people on the race scene.
‘I don’t know if you have seen cool runnings but there is a scene where they arrive at the top of the hill and I don’t think they have ever seen black people up there before and that was always how it was with me and my Dad.
‘Particularly when we first started and how that felt, I was always fortunate I could lean back on my dad.’
Former Arsenal striker and Montreal Impact coach Thierry Henry also explained the obstacles he had to overcome in his youth and that he began to experience racism when he moved to USA to play for New York Red Bulls.
‘I grew up in a bad neighbourhood, which at the time I thought was the best neighbourhood in the world because I couldn’t compare it to anything,’ the Frenchman explained.
‘Because there was a lot of diversity in my neighbourhood I didn’t realise anywhere was different. When I stepped out of my neighbourhood, I started to realise people started to make me feel that I wasn’t human.
Arsenal legend Thierry Henry said that he experienced racism when he moved to USA
Thierry Henry is coaching Montrael Impact and spoke about his encounters with racism
‘The colour of my skin was a problem, what I wore was a problem. In Europe sometimes if you have a hood on, suddenly that means you are from a bad neighbourhood. And if you have the colour to go with it, that’s a double bill.
‘At one point, I said people didn’t see my colour anymore because I played football, because I was, in brackets, famous.
‘When I came to play in the US, my colour came back because no-one could recognise me, depending on which state we were in. My colour came back. It was the first time again that I felt like I left my neighbourhood.
‘When I arrived in New York, some people could recognise me and some couldn’t. When you ask for a cab, he looks and sees you are a certain colour and puts the light on and suddenly he isn’t free any more. You’re left like ‘hang on I’m alone here’. It hit me again.
‘I have been called a ‘black s***’ live on TV. It is what it is, you’ve heard it before but this was live on TV which made it like ‘wow…’.’