British athlete Dina Asher-Smith has written of her experiences of racism and her thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement.
Team GB's biggest gold medal hope for the Tokyo Olympics detailed in her column for the Daily Telegraph her reaction to protests against police violence and systemic racism which have erupted across the globe.
"The past few weeks have been hard for me. In the weeks immediately after George Floyd’s murder it was hard. Hard to focus. Hard to sleep. Tiring, exhausting, and emotionally draining. It was heartbreaking," she wrote.
"Sadly, I know that some people will read that and roll their eyes. Or think, 'I’m sick of hearing about this', or 'here they go again'. And yes, whilst some may be sick of hearing about it, black people are sick of having to talk about it, of seeing a brutal murder trend on social media and knowing that it’s only trending because someone was able to record it on a smartphone. Black people are sick of being treated differently due to the colour of our skin."
Britain's fastest woman listed some of the incidents of racism she had endured over the course of her life, with the 24-year-old athlete detailing:
"It’s being assumed that I am an employee rather than an attendee at a black-tie event. It’s being assumed that I come from a single-parent household and having consistently to emphasise that yes, my father is present and does come to my races… yes he’s over there… and yes, he is loving and supportive, he has been since the day I was born. It’s having to smile through the shocked 'Oh' that follows that. It’s being followed around not so inconspicuously by security in a store from the moment you step in. It’s being assumed you can’t afford to buy anything in a nice shop."
She recalled some of the experiences particular to her life as a black athlete, writing that some of the "forms of oppression are, hearing that a journalist at our World Championships holding camp press day only asked the black male athletes if they had ever been in a gang, had ever seen someone get stabbed and other harmful racial tropes, clearly looking to put the story on to the athlete before the athlete had the chance to show who they were themselves. It’s hearing the term 'the Africans' used to lazily collectively describe athletes in the distance races – why not use their actual names? – and then seeing debates that the races are hard to follow and not always appealing to a European audience because everyone 'looks the same'.
"It’s seeing the black footballers having to endure vile racist chants, Nazi salutes and having banana skins thrown at them, then being criticised for reacting to it and the organisations responsible being given only a minor penalty fine. It’s coming on social media and seeing that Ian Wright has yet again opened his Instagram DM’s to racial slurs and monkey emojis."
Danny Rose with Newcastle United
Image credit: Getty Images
Asher-Smith noted some of the wider injustices, linked to the coronavirus which has statistically a greater impact on BAME demographics:
"It’s why it’s not shocking to the BAME community that we are twice as likely to die from coronavirus, because 'unconscious' bias, systemic racism and structural inequality express themselves in health crises. It’s why the black community isn’t shocked that Alexandra Burke was advised to lighten her skin to appeal to the British audience."
Asher-Smith is the latest British sports personality to speak out on the issue. Footballers Danny Rose, Marcus Rashford, Troy Deeney and Raheem Sterling have all spoken out on political issues over the course of the past month, and Premier League players have been wearing 'Black Lives Matter' on the back of their shirts.