Former Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara spoke out strongly against racism and highlighted the need for more awareness among people across the world.
In an interview on Cricbuzz, the 42-year-old spoke at length on how important it is to educate people about different cultures and the need for children to be taught history in a better way.
The Black Lives Matter movement has gained immense support all over the world ever since American George Floyd was killed by police officers in May. The tragic incident brought much-needed attention to the issue of racism that continues to exist across societies.
Racism has been a concern in the sport of cricket as well, with West Indies cricketer Darren Sammy opening up recently on how he had to cope with it while playing in the Indian Premier League.
In the ongoing Test series between England and West Indies, players from both teams have been sporting the Black Lives Matter slogan on their shirts and have also been taking a knee before the start of each match.
Sangakkara reflected on the need for change and also highlighted the role of sportspersons in this all-important movement.
Here’s what he had to say:
Importance of education...
There’s an innate and inbuilt sense of decency and fairness that we all have. Whether we’re educated or not, it doesn’t matter. I’ve seen some of the worst acts committed by people with the best education. If your education is not based on values and if your education is not rooted in that inbuilt moral compass where you know what is right and wrong, then you’re in trouble.
Education is not going to take any of those prejudices away, it’s just going to allow you to argue them away better. I think for a lot of the cricketers today, to wake up to what the reality is and their roles in portraying a positive message to society is very important. You also have to understand as an entertainer that you are responsible to the spectators and the fans for providing you with a stage and an audience in front of which you can perform. Without them you are nothing. And it is very important to understand that along with that comes social responsibility.
We always have cricket teams or sports teams around the world doing charity and some of it is looks very staged. Sometimes you feel that you have to have it out there on social media in front of the cameras so that people know what you’re doing, but actually there’s no need for that. If you’re a responsible citizen, whether you play sport or not, you have a responsibility to make another life better.
Teach history the right way...
Well, I think everyone experiences various forms of racism and discrimination. Some historically, some in a certain context. Sometimes skin color is not the only basis for discrimination. But if you take Black Lives Matter or if you take racism and discrimination in the world, I think one of the most important things to do is to teach our children history as it should be taught. Not to not to teach them a version of history that is sanitized or the profile of a someone who is considered to be great in a disinfected and sanitized manner so that you only see that person in a positive light.
It is important to shine the spotlight on every single person that we read about or talk about, that we consider an inspiration, that we consider great in terms of history. We need to shine a spotlight on all of them, on the whole character. The good, the bad, the ugly. Once you understand what real history is, I think you will find a lot of attitudes changing. If you wake people up to that reality instead of believing that we are the be all and end all of civilization, I think that will be a very, very powerful lesson to everyone.
Perils of blind faith..
We are all taught to love our country, to respect our history and traditions. But sometimes we follow that blindly and that stops us from appreciating other cultures, countries, people, races, ethnicities, and religions. So educate yourself, open your mind, but more importantly open your eyes because without that change will not happen. And change is not going to be overnight. It’s not going to be a flavor of the month where you protest for a month and forget about it. It’s a slow, tedious process that involves everyone in the world, not just one country. It is very important that we have this unbiased realistic and stark, and sometimes scary, change.
It has to be a part of how we raise our kids. We have to make them better if we are not good enough ourselves. We have to make our children better if we have not done our part. We have to ensure children do their part. We have to change as people, as individuals, and we have to ensure that our children grow up in the right environment with the right mindset and with open arms, open hearts and open minds.
Watch Sangakkara deliver his powerful message here: