Dr Marlon Moncrieffe is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Brighton, where he focuses on the application of 20th century black-British history to curriculum development. He is also an elite former cyclist and his research has focused on black cyclists in Britain. In today’s column, Dr Moncrieffe looks back on the Tour de France peloton’s decision to write “NO TO RACISM” on their COVID-19 masks at the start of the 21st stage at Mantes-La-Jolie.
Before the start of the Tour de France 2020, I wrote in the online academic journal The Conversation that it would be a huge surprise if we saw riders during the event take the knee or raise their fists in solidarity with the anti-racist Black Lives Matter protests around the world.
Some sports were listening to the international conversation about race and racism that erupted this year. For example, there was clear leadership and action from football, cricket, rugby, NBA basketball, and baseball. However, when the UCI World Tour 2020 resumed, with the Strade Bianche race on August 1, cycling showed neither leadership nor action.
France’s republican ideal means “race” because a concept simply does not exist. This denial is why we haven’t seen any esprit de corps organizers of the Tour de France with anti-racist demonstrators from around the world. For the so-called Land of Enlightenment and the cradle of human rights, it was disappointing.
Words such as ‘disappointing’, ‘pathetic’, ‘desperate’ and ’embarrassing’ were addressed to Tour de France riders who finally regrouped at the start of the finals (after three weeks of opportunity) with statements anti-racist. scribbled on their COVID-19 face masks. It was not a global demonstration. We have not seen all the Tour de France riders in solidarity with the anti-racist message. Yet the message given by some Tour de France riders was at least to let the world know that racism also exists in the world of cycling, and that must be eradicated.
I turned some of the images of the Tour de France riders (see above) into works of art, in the hope that their anti-racist message can be shared more widely for greater impact.
I recently invited the public to vote on the actions of the anti-racist riders of the Tour de France. I asked: Do you think this was an “anti-racist force or an” anti-racist farce “? You can see the results below:
The cycling community can benefit from the results of this public response. Otherwise, the anti-racist message of the Tour de France riders risks being forgotten and lost.
Cycling will remain racist denial, especially where Western national federations and former world sport leaders continue to use the peripheral language of “diversity”. It is a diversion and avoidance of engaging with the necessary voice and language of anti-racism that is needed to protect the unstoppable interest and growth of the sport, especially on the part of non -white. If cycling is to transform, to reach even greater heights through broader forms of ethnic diversity, it is the anti-racist discourse and education of cycling enthusiasts that must be powerful and consistent.
I see something vital that is missing from this visual communication of diversity and inclusion in cycling given by the UCI on its website.
The dynamic action and leadership that the UCI should now take to demonstrate the necessary commitment to diversity and inclusion of its affiliate members would be to form an anti-racist advisory group. Not only could this help the UCI produce better photographs than the one above on its website, but this group could also help provide leadership and guidance to national bodies, WorldTour teams and the cycling industry in all through an anti-racist education.
For example, from a racing perspective, any reported incidents of racism could be investigated by this group. This group would also support UCI officials and commissaires in developing their respective skills in racial literacy. There is a lot that an organization like this could offer the UCI and the world of cycling in general. An official anti-racist group could bring greater confidence to some Western national cycling bodies, which are still in the embryonic stages of change. Cyclists of all ethnicities will know that such a group is created to protect them from racial discrimination.
Change is happening and it is good that some UK cyclists are now using their platforms to challenge the racism they see in the sport.
Change of plan, and I will add all the rest of my Wiggle High5 kit to my eBay account, to auction for the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency. https://t.co/rYD4MkBzPJ
– Elinor Barker (@elinorbarker) December 2, 2020
Recently, professional pilot Elinor Barker cracked the glass and pressed the anti-racist alarm button hard. She and thousands of people on social media were offended by the racial “browbug” tweet given by her former Australian teammate Wiggle High5. The tweet said the cause of the Australian woman’s broken car window (owned by her brother) was in the criminal hands of “our native friends”. This racial arrogance comes from the inherited sense of entitlement from whites and a complete blindness to how this position in life was achieved through the barbaric genocide and the displacement of indigenous peoples into their own country, through British colonialism.
The tweet “our native friends” is one example of the hidden racist attitudes that exist in the sport of cycling. These are the attitudes towards people that anti-racism action in cycling aims to eradicate.