Why Hamilton is fighting so hard against racism

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Lewis Hamilton kämpft gegen Rassismus. Credit: Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton kämpft gegen Rassismus. Credit: Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton sent a call for help against racism on Monday. That is why the Formula 1 champion gives so much gas off the track when it comes to discrimination.

From the outside he appears invulnerable. With six F1 world championship titles, Lewis Hamilton (35) is the living icon of his sport. The most successful Formula 1 driver after Michael Schumacher – and on the best way to tear down his memorial. But inside the megastar of the racing scene, things look different: there the Brit has many scars.

He always reveals the greatest of these old injuries when he considers it necessary. Like now. Given the discussions about police violence against the dark-skinned population in the USA – especially after the violent death of George Floyd – Hamilton uses his popularity for an indictment: “I see those of you who remain silent,” he writes on Instagram. “Some of you are the greatest stars and yet remain silent in the midst of this injustice. Not a sign of anyone in my industry, which of course is a sport dominated by whites. ”

In the discussion about racism, Hamilton puts his foot on the accelerator and pushes it very far down.

The Englishman is the first dark-skinned driver in Formula 1, but he has never been disadvantaged in the higher racing classes. On the contrary: color and social background spurred him on to his success. Little Lewis and his father Anthony wanted to show the world that even a child from the working-class neighborhoods of the small town of Stevenage can make a difference. His origins taught him to fight.

In 2007 F1 and McLaren-Mercedes therefore welcomed the boy with ancestors from the island of Grenada with open arms. “We need a German, a black and a woman”, ex-chief marketer Bernie Ecclestone once announced and thus also paved the way for Hamilton’s mega-career.

One thing is clear: Hamilton’s largest scar does not come from Formula 1, but from his childhood. “We were the grubby black family with crappy equipment, crappy car and a crappy trailer,” the reigning champion once described his past. The mothers and fathers of the competition even wanted to push him out of the scene. “Parents came to me and said to me: ‘You’re not good enough. You’d better stop. ” His answer back then: “I just hit your son, so what are you talking about?”

The supporter of Martin Luther King also suffered from discrimination at school: “I remember sitting on the back seat of my father and saying: Can I learn karate? I was bullied and hated it. That’s why I learned to defend myself. ”

It is a wound that breaks open every now and then. For example in 2011. The then McLaren star put himself aside when he responded to a series of justified punishments with the unjustified accusation: “Maybe that’s because I’m black.” Later he apologized for it.

Meanwhile Hamilton handles his Caribbean ancestry more confidently. “When I first entered Formula 1, I tried to ignore the fact that I was the first black man to ever drive in this sport,” he says: “But as I got older, I learned to appreciate the effects. It’s a pretty cool feeling to be the person tearing down a wall. Just like the Williams sisters did in tennis or Tiger Woods in golf. ”

Breaking down the walls – that’s not his goal now. He is not on the side of those who pillaged and set fire to buildings, but he is on the side of those who protest peacefully. “There cannot be peace until the so-called leaders change it,” said Hamilton. “We are not born with racism and hatred in our hearts. It is taught by those we look up to. ”

A sentence in which the man with the many scars inside also knows that he is such an idol that many young athletes look up to. And he too can make the world a little better with his statements.

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