Bath Rugby’s Beno Obano has reflected on the importance of the Gallagher Premiership's new campaign ‘Rugby Against Racism,’ which pledges to tackle and eradicate issues of racism in sport and society.
The campaign aims to make English professional club rugby a more diverse and inclusive environment for all staff, players and fans alongside support for societal change.
Discussing the significance of the campaign, the 25-year-old stated: “Everyone should be against racism and should have been for a long time. It’s important to recognise this as it has been neglected in the past.”
Before kick-off for each match since the resumption of the Gallagher Premiership season, the Blue, Black and White have demonstrated a unified front for commitment to equality by forming a circle and kneeling together.
Obano explained, “taking the knee has become a symbol for the Black Lives Matter movement, something that is really important to me. I was happy that so many people did it and it was nice to see that everyone understood that the knee meant solidarity behind the meaning of lives under oppression.”
The loosehead prop disclosed why he feels it is crucial to talk about racism in sport and why such conversations may have been suppressed in the past.
Obano said: “It’s important to talk about race because some people have benefited because of their race whilst others have been disadvantaged. For people to know about their unconscious bias, which are reinforced subconsciously through the media and language, we have to talk about racism.
“The issue is, it is hard to talk about racism because in the UK it is not as clear. Attacks like those experienced by Ugo Monye happen (as shown on BT Sport – watch here), but the form of racism that we really need to combat is microaggression.”
Microaggresion is a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalised group, such as a racial or ethnic minority.
Former player Ugo Monye recently bravely spoke out about the racist attack he experienced when he was two years old. Whilst Obano acknowledged that racist attacks are discriminatory and wrong, such instances are not the battle he is trying to fight.
“What we are trying to stop is institutional and systemic racism, that will hopefully in turn prevent racist attacks."
Institutional and systemic racism refer to a form of racism that is embedded as normal practice within society or an organisation which leads to discrimination in criminal justice, political power, education and other issues.
Obano continued: “It saddens me because I think these attacks will be around forever due to ignorance, but we can change systematic racism across the board, and this is what I think is important. If those stories do help people understand and then change then yes, it is important to share those experiences. For me personally the goal is to change institutional and systemic racism.”
In order to be proactive with change, the forward highlighted the importance of raising awareness and reflection.
“It is so important for people to reflect and understand the consequences of their actions."
"The little things you might do that you don’t realise may be considered racist, or maybe not even be racist but in line with your biases can only be recognised through awareness and reflection.
“The human race has a responsibility to educate themselves and reflect about racism. When I think about any equal rights matters, I have a responsibility to know better and know how to understand these subjects.
“You teach individuals to know how to deal with others well and behave correctly as not to offend them, and I think it is a responsibility for everybody if you want to be a good person to understand these things. We all have a responsibility to educate the next generation about the detrimental effects of racism.”
Obano hopes Rugby Against Racism can ignite the catalyst of change in sport and in society as a whole. The 25-year-old hopes Premiership Rugby will continue put money into black communities to promote opportunities within the sport through initiatives like Project Rugby, which is designed to increase participation in rugby from traditionally underrepresented groups like BAME communities.
He finished by saying: “I want to see them put money in black communities and for people to start asking questions on racism and read up on it, because there is enough information out there.”
“The core values of our sport – passion, solidarity, integrity, discipline and respect – are fundamental. It’s why we play and why people across the country are involved with rugby."
"If we can demonstrate these values not just through Rugby Against Racism but across everything we do, we can inspire people to do the same. It’s a responsibility we have as players, with a profile in our sport, to lead the way.”