reflecting on a conversation with Paul Parker

by Nico, Gr 11

in march, btec sports students had the privilege of connecting with Paul Parker, a former Manchester United and England Football player, to discuss a variety of topics, including racism in sports. read nico's reflection on this intriguing conversation.

What does social justice mean? Since the events of the past year, people have been reflecting more and more on the topic of social justice. In our discussion with Paul Parker, we got the opportunity to speak to him directly about his experiences with racism and how he dealt with these incidents in his life.

Paul Parker's perspective on this issue was very interesting, not only because of his experience with social injustice but also because of his attitude towards such events. For example, he mentioned a game during which fans were chanting “There’s no black in the union jack”, referring to his skin color. At halftime, his coach asked him about the incident and gave him the choice between continuing to play, or quitting the game. As hard as it was, Parker chose the latter. Looking back on this incident, he said that back then the general approach was to get over these moments and continue to play. We asked him about the situation now, and if racism ever impacted his view on football. His response was a firm no. Despite these incidents, he sees a certain set of values that he himself grew up with and that he believes have always been, and still are, present in the game. Specifically, he mentioned the values of hard work and perseverance. This was something that resonated with me personally, as I myself have faced situations in which people have said racist things. I have faced moments in football when some players would try to get under my skin by making racist references about my skin color. Over time, my perception on these incidents changed, as I realized that allowing such comments to demotivate me was not effective at all, but only took away some of the fun of playing football for me.

Reflecting on this, I believe that true social justice can only be achieved by looking at ourselves as both the problem and the solution to many incidents that take place around the world. This means that we should always ask ourselves what we can do to support and further the work of social justice everywhere, instead of asking what others around us should be doing.

“If you have a dream you don’t let anyone put you down, you fight.” - Paul Parker

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