Lewis Hamilton announced he has created a commission designed to use motorsport to advance education opportunities among Black youth.
Writing in the UK’s The Times, the six-time world champion revealed he has been working on a project to try and instigate change after being vocal in his support of the global Black Lives Matter movement. In partnership with the Royal Academy of Engineering, Hamilton has launched The Hamilton Commission, which will focus on how motorsport can be used to increase interest and opportunities for young black people in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.
The Briton says the death of George Floyd has awoken many to the issues of systemic racism around the globe, and believes education is the key to making the world a more inclusive place. Hamilton highlights the lack of change in terms of diversity within Formula 1 since he made his debut in 2007 as another driving force behind the commission, which he hopes will lead to more young black people pursuing careers in F1, motorsport and other engineering sectors.
“If we want to change things in a real way, we need a more diverse group of people in positions of power, but that ambition becomes a lot more difficult if kids aren’t getting the education they need,” Hamilton wrote. “I’ve recently spent time speaking to politicians including the Mayor of London, and the MP (Member of Parliament) for my home town, Stevenage, trying to understand their views on the issues and how we can work together to tackle them.
“Education on racism has to happen on several levels, and it has to happen now. We have a lot to learn as individuals, media, businesses and government, myself included.
“Black American culture has been a major influence on me, but I’m humbled to admit just how much more I have to learn about the struggles of the black community in so many parts of the world. I’m also taking the time to learn more about our own history of racism here in the UK, because while more subtle, it is a British problem too. We shouldn’t let statues and straw man arguments distract from real conversations we need to have and the stories a new generation must hear. We should be ensuring the history taught in schools is the full story, not an edited, glorified version of our past and black history needs to be a prominent part of any curriculum. Only by acknowledging this truth together, can we create real change.
“In the racing industry, that journey of education begins with getting a clear understanding of the barriers we need to break and the accelerators that we need to invest in to drive fundamental change. Despite my success in the sport, the institutional barriers that have kept F1 highly exclusive persist. It is not enough to point to me, or to a single new Black hire, as a meaningful example of progress. Thousands of people are employed across this industry and that group needs to be more representative of society.
“For this reason, I have been working with the Royal Academy of Engineering to create The Hamilton Commission, a research partnership dedicated to exploring how motorsport can be used as a vehicle to engage more young people from Black backgrounds with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects and, ultimately, employ them on our teams or in other engineering sectors. It will explore areas including lack of role models and career services at schools, opportunities to engage more black youth with STEM extracurriculars, barriers that prevent people from more diverse backgrounds joining the racing industry, and problematic hiring practices that result in fewer Black graduates entering engineering professions.
“This will not be arm’s length research. We want to hear from the young people and graduates who deal with these challenges every day and we are in the process of bringing on additional partners who work on the ground in black communities to bring first-hand perspective. In addition, we want to bring in leaders from policy and business who are committed to leading on the activation of research recommendations. The time for platitudes and token gestures is over.
“I hope that The Hamilton Commission enables real, tangible and measurable change. When I look back in 20 years, I want to see the sport that gave a shy, working-class Black kid from Stevenage so much opportunity, become as diverse as the complex and multicultural world we live in.”
Click here to read Hamilton’s full column in The Times.