Johnson-Thompson throws support behind Black Lives Matter movement after revealing she first suffered racism aged nine
KATARINA Johnson-Thompson threw her support behind the Black Lives Matter movement as she revealed she first suffered racism aged NINE.
The reigning world heptathlon champion has penned an article for fashion bible British Vogue on her experiences of growing up in Liverpool.
KJT wrote: “The first time I got called the N-word, I was nine-years-old.
“Singled out by a boy in my class, who already knew that this was a way to hurt me without even understanding why.
“Growing up in Liverpool, I knew I wasn’t white, yet I remember being confused filling out race forms.
“I would literally ask my mum: ‘What am I? Which box do I tick?’
“I was definitely more Mel C than Mel B, yet when me and some classmates sang “Wannabe” in my Year 6 leavers assembly, the obvious casting for me was Scary Spice, not Sporty.
“There are so many ways being one of a few BAME people in a majority white school can affect you.
“You become the spokesperson for a whole race, with the responsibility of determining acceptable boundaries.
“In geography, when a classmate points to the country Niger, pronouncing it wrong and giggling, are you meant to laugh along?”
Johnson-Thompson admits she developed an “intense fear of bad things happening to my loved ones” when her dad died three years ago.
The 27-year-old relates this “anxiety” to feelings felt by the BAME community after high-profile cases of African-Americans being shot or killed by US police.
She said: “Imagine that every time your brother goes for a run, or your dad goes to the shops, you worry they may never come back.
“For the BAME community, it’s an anxiety that’s all too familiar.
“Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Elijah McClain: we have all seen the names of those who have unjustly lost their lives.”
Johnson-Thompson salutes those who have spoken out this summer for racial equality – and this has encouraged her not to remain silent anymore.
She said: “I’m not a confrontational person, and so I understand the courage that it takes to speak out against injustice, irrespective of how compelled you feel to do so.
“Recently, I saw a “Facebook Friend” post an update stating: ‘The UK is one of the most liberal and accepting countries in the world, there is no white privilege here and racism is almost non-existent.’
“This obliviousness is part of the problem, and one reason why progress is so slow. “Racism in the UK comes in many forms and is not exclusive to outright murders or slurs.
“We all need to recognise our own privilege and come together in this movement – not moment – until we see actual change.
“These past few months have forced us to have so many tough conversations. It’s forced me to look back on my own life and reflect upon my race and identity.
“I’m lucky that I have a voice and a platform to talk freely about these issues.
“In the past, I’ve been someone who has always wanted to live by the motto: ‘Anything for an easy life.’ And as a sportsperson, I’ve been conscious to make my opinions bland and non-committal.
“But I can’t on this one. Black lives matter.”
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