For Lilian Thuram, the World Cup has never been enough. Even before ending a playing career in which he won trophies in Monaco, Parma, Juventus and Barcelona, as well as top honors with France, for whom he holds the record for number of appearances (142), he has been trying to contribute. to the depth of social change.
The foundation he created in 2008 aims to educate people to get out of racism. Since he hung up his boots that year, he has also, among many other things, campaigned against sexism and homophobia, has advised the French government on social integration, has served as a UNICEF ambassador and, for his efforts To counter discrimination, he has been awarded honorary degrees by the Government of France. Stirling and Stockholm universities. He has written several books. The English version of his latest, titled White Thinking: Behind the Mask of Racial Identity, is released on Friday. In it he asks for a “racial suicide”. Its aim is to free people from “identity prisons”.
You know these are poignant terms. Thuram believes that it is important to encourage people, particularly whites, to think more deeply about social structures and race.
“Reni Eddo-Lodge wrote a very good book a few years ago called Why I don’t talk to white people anymore about race,” says Thuram. “My book says the opposite: ‘If we are going to talk about racism, it is with whites that we have to talk.’ It’s like with sexism, the people who need an education are men and boys. What I’m trying to say is, ‘Well, there is racism: why? And why do we say that there are whites and not whites? Why do we say that there are people of color? If you don’t know the reasons, you won’t be able to understand why biases exist. People need to know the history of the racialization of the world. “
Thuram explains that he has known that race is an imposition from outside, since he moved from Guadeloupe, where he was born, to Paris at the age of nine. It was then that, due to the perception of others, “it turned black.”
“Nobody is born black or white,” he says. “It is important that people who say they are white understand what it is to be white. We should all be aware that history has led us to wear skin-colored masks and in the book I invite people to remove those masks. To eliminate them, one must know the history of these identities linked to skin color, the social hierarchies that were devised. When we understand history, we understand that racism has always been a scam. It has always been a political construction destined to break the bonds of solidarity between human beings to exploit certain people so that a minority becomes rich.
“In order to change we have to get out of categories: men, women, black and white, and so on. We have to promote the idea that we are human beings before anything else. In general, most do not want changes because they have adapted to their habits. Therefore, a minority has to be able to instigate change. “
Soccer is not the focus of white thought. But since sport is an important part of society, it can influence and be influenced. Thuram says that what the players do is important. “It is very important that players continue to kneel before games, to condemn the injustices that affect people of color,” he says. “English football is to be congratulated for continuing to do so; they are truly pioneers in the development of consciousness, at least in football. What they are doing encourages people to reflect ”.
Thuram believes it’s also important for white players to be proactive in challenging racial inequality rather than letting players of color lead the way. “Very often players who are targeted by racism are asked, ‘What should we do about it?’ That is very hypocritical because it suggests that it is up to them to find solutions as if they were the problem. It is up to the white players, who are usually the majority, to refuse to continue playing. Then the powers that be will be forced to act. Because otherwise your business will suffer. “
Thuram does not expect governing bodies to take firm steps to bring about change unless they are pressured to do so. “The change never comes at the beginning of the authorities. If you want to achieve change, you have to do things so that the authorities are forced to change. For example, I am speaking to you from Italy, where people often ask me, “Are the authorities doing enough to combat racism?” And I say, ‘No. I came to Italy in 1997 and there were racist chants in the stadiums. It is now 2021 and there are still racist chants in the stadiums. That means the authorities haven’t done their job. ‘
“All I do is take a photograph of reality. Since they have not generated changes, we need another strategy. Historically, it is people who force systems to change. I mean individuals of all colors that force the system to evolve. This is how things have happened in history, whether in the fight for gender equality, sexual equality or whatever.
“They have to change because otherwise it will go against their business interests. As long as the parties continue when there are outbreaks of racism, the institutions will continue to make only superficial attempts to address it. They will only make substantial changes on the day the white players decide to stop playing. Then the institutions will be forced to look for solutions ”.
Thuram is encouraged by the activism he sees from “Young black players who are no longer willing to accept what the older ones accepted … and who make their teammates, opponents and fans think.” He is equally encouraged by the postures of some white players. “For example, when I see Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson speaking out against racism, I think it’s fantastic. Because it means that he has understood that racism affects him too.
“He was not neutral, he realized that it was not the responsibility of the minority of people who are the target of racism to condemn him. Players like him set an example. The more people report racism, the closer we will get to equality. Saying nothing is supporting the violence that is racism. I wrote the book to help people understand how things are organized, that racism is a trap. You have to understand that. “
White thought: behind the mask of racial identity Lilian Thuram’s out October 29, published by Hero, priced £ 18.99
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism