The Times published a commentary piece this week on 22 year old Formula 1 star Lewis Hamilton…In “Can Lewis Hamilton Escape The Curse of Tiger?“, the author predicts that rather than becoming a social commentator and black activist like Mohammed Ali (as is apparently his obligation as a person of colour), Lewis Hamilton is doomed to follow in the footsteps of Tiger Woods in becoming a corporate cash cow who will be falling over himself in sponsorship money but will apparently have no, or little, effect on “global black consciousness”.
But why on earth should Lewis Hamilton become any kind of spokesman or activist for black issues? He is not a politician -he is a racing car driver. Why should he or Tiger Woods be expected to have any effect on ‘global black consciousness’? Just because they are in the public eye does not mean they have anything that we necessarily need to hear outside of what they do. Furthermore, both Hamilton and Woods are of mixed heritage – so why should they be representatives for any ‘black’ cause?
Mohammed Ali was a boxer, but he also had a great mind and had many intelligent things to say about politics, culture and society. But it was not his duty as a high profile black man to do so. I would argue that there are currently far too many people – particularly rappers and other entertainers – who are speaking out on issues that they don’t really know enough about. Many of them do not have anything particularly enlightening to say. However, those people – rather than the breadth of people who are genuinely qualified to impart their opinion – are (often wrongly) being seen as representatives for the millions of diverse black people around the world.
Take the recent incident on the UK Big Brother show which resulted in a contestant being thrown out of the Big Brother house for using the N word. The context in which the word was used is debatable, as is the speaker’s intention when she uttered it. However, I’m not bothered about that. What concerns me is that many people felt that she should have been allowed to use the word because ‘black people’ use it! When you ask who these ‘black people’ are, the names of rappers such as Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent tend to come up. I mean, since when did Snoop Dogg, P Diddy or any other rapper become the figurehead for black people? They do not represent me, or anyone that I know. However, it’s assumed that because they are in the public domain and they are black, they have something important to say on black issues. That ain’t good when every other word coming out of their mouth is ‘N—a’!
Don’t get me wrong… Just because someone is an entertainer or a sportsperson does not mean they don’t have anything of value to say. However, David Beckham, Freddie Flintoff, Marilyn Manson and Paris Hilton are not expected to provide opinions on politics or culture – so why should black entertainers or sportspeople be expected to do the same?