It’s been interesting to see the backlash, especially on social networks, to Lewis Hamilton’s strong support for Black Lives Matter (#BLM.) People have been sharing a particular comment which runs roughly as follows: ‘Lewis Hamilton is a tax-dodger who lives in Monaco. He drives a Mercedes. Hitler had all his cars made by Mercedes and anyone who drives on some 80 years later must be the same as Hitler. Hitler was also fond of Hugo Boss, who made all his leisure wear for him. Lewis Hamilton is a hypocrite.’ These are not the exact words used but I won’t glorify the actual posts because that is what the people who come up with these posts want me to do. So, who are these people?
The people who retweet or share them on Facebook are probably not card-carrying Nazis. They may well share my view that Hamilton is a boring person in a boring sport and, yes, he does dodge paying tax in the UK by living in Monaco. He can’t help being boring and Formula One is what it is (boring) and any admiration I might have for him disappeared long ago because of his tax arrangements. But his tax arrangements are not really what the attacks are about. They are about undermining and rubbishing the #BLM campaign.
I retraced some of the posts being shared and – surprise, surprise! – most originate from shady faux patriotic far right websites and groups, as well as right wing idiots sharing them with the hard of thinking. If you follow timelines or twitter histories, soon enough you will find ‘White Lives Matter’ and all manner of racist tropes.
Yes, Mercedes and Hugo Boss have somewhat troubling World War Two histories but this is hardly relevant today. The Mercedes F1 car is not covered in swastikas or ‘Heil Hitlers’. Many of its staff took the knee before yesterday’s Austrian Grand Prix procession. In other words, that was then, this is now.
As a black man in an almost exclusively white sport, it would have been very odd indeed had Hamilton not spoken out. Whilst the man himself, by dint of his constant efforts to live in countries with what he regards as a more favourable tax regime and so diminishing funds that might otherwise be available to support among other worthwhile initiatives, does not do much in material ways to fight racism, his voice does.
‘All Lives Matter’ and ‘White Lives Matter’ are not campaigns at all. They are a distraction. They are there to muddy the waters. No one says lives other than black lives don’t matter, save one or two lunatics on the fringes and the point of #BLM is about racism against black people. It’s specific and it’s needed.