Tue | Aug 11, 2020

Letter of the Day | Michael Holding delivers a blow on racism

Published:Monday | July 13, 2020 | 12:15 AM


The man they called ‘Whispering Death’, with the silky, smooth and elegant run-up to the wicket, bowled his best over yet last week and this, some three decades after his retirement from Test cricket. It was better than the six balls with which he tormented Geoffrey Boycott, only relieving him of his misery with the last one; better than any of the deliveries with which he sent back to the pavilion the South African captain of England, Tony Greig, who had previously threatened to make the West Indies team ‘grovel’.

Holding made an absolutely brilliant statement on how black people over the world suffer and have suffered from institutionalised racism. He spoke with passion but with clarity, explaining that the fundamental cause of racial injustice was the dehumanisation of the black race. When Holding broke down, he cried for every single black person in the world.

Why do we follow?

Holding was also on the mark when he stressed the need for education of both white and black people about the past. We know that the English do not teach their children about the sins of the ‘glorious’ Empire they established. But why do we follow suit in Jamaica and the Caribbean?

I have said for many years that the study of Caribbean History should be compulsory for the first five years in our secondary schools, and students should be required to write an examination on the subject. Kudos to Holding, who also spoke with conviction about the colonial relic of ‘brainwashing’. He obviously sees education as one of the tools to eradicate that unfortunate condition.

I felt privileged and proud to listen to Holding’s exposition, which was as effective as any of his deliveries to Boycott and Greig. I taught Holding at Kingston College; indeed, he was a member of my ‘All First Form’ (seven first forms at Melbourne Park) Cricket Team in 1965.

Of course, Holding’s personal record on the question of racism and its impact on black people is impeccable. He turned down a lucrative offer to play cricket in South Africa, during apartheid. His statement sets an example that should be followed by all Caribbean people. Too many of us, especially in Jamaica, are either reluctant, ashamed or afraid to confront and speak of our colonial past.

Holding rightly said that although we have been told to “get over it”, our history cannot be wished away as the impact of past injustice is all too real in the present.

Holding is undoubtedly a credit to his upbringing and his family, to Kingston College, his own country Jamaica, and the wider Caribbean.