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Eliot Jackson and Phil Young on Racism in Mountain Biking 8

An inspiring conversation on probably the single most important topic facing the world today.

Eliot Jackson and Phil Young on Racism in Mountain Biking

This awesome episode of the Downtime Podcast delves deep into the racial issues currently at the forefront of the social agenda, as seen through the prism of outdoor sports in general and mountain biking in particular. Listen in as Eliot Jackson and Phil Young give their insights on where things currently stand and more importantly, where they can go from here. The episode is embedded below for your convenience but can also be found wherever you get your podcasts.


There are a number of related resources available on the episode page if you would like to learn more.

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  • Brian_Peterson

    10/15/2020 12:05 AM

    Great podcast... I liked that instead of trying to fix all the wrongs in the world, we just looked at how to possibly make a good thing, better.

    I really looked forward to hearing more since Eliot's post on social media... Besides being an amazing rider, he's a smart guy who may have experienced things at a level most of us may not have seen it..

    I thought Phil brought a lot to the table.. Not just pointing out what's wrong, but offering suggestions..

    Both acknowledged what is good in mountain biking and offered reasonable ideas as to how things could change.

    Thanks for doing this!

  • Oz_Taylor

    10/14/2020 8:59 AM

    I get that Elliot didn't want to play the victim throughout his career, but from what he said, Elliot has come from a middle class background and has had the same opportunities as anybody else in mtb racing. I have friends who were amazing riders but they had to make do with an old, rusty bmx until they were old enough to buy their own bikes. To get to the top of any sport you usually have to start very young, and that means having parents with the means to assist you. Like Elliot said, downhill is totally objective. It's the rider against the clock. It's the same in F1, performance and money matters but the barriers of entry are even higher.

    It would have been nice if the interviewer had asked if and when Elliot has been discriminated against because of his race during his mtb career. Did he miss out on any sponsor deals? Did any decisions go against him? Elliot has been a successful racer and is now a pundit and a great presenter. In the mtb world of white guys, Elliot did stand out because of his skin colour, but I never thought about that in a negative way. To me, he's just been that guy with an awesome style and the best scrubs.

    To be totally honest I found Phil Young to be very provocative. Here are some quotes from his opening spiel.
    'I'm proud to be black' Fair enough but as a white man, try saying 'I'm proud to be white' in public and see what you are labelled as.
    'In the UK media, black people are always portrayed in a negative way'. Always? Really?
    'There is never anything positive to say about black people' Never?
    As for his history lesson on the slave trade, he needs to do some more reading. I find his comments about post war Britain to be simplistic and insulting. If the UK hadn't lost hundreds of thousands of men fighting Nazi tyranny, it's unlikely he would even have a platform today. Talking about a KKK lynching as an 'invisible barrier' to sport is beyond ridiculous. It's unfortunate but these types of conversations usually occur in an echo chamber where people are too afraid to question what they are saying.

    I just don't think his kind of hyperbole and rhetoric helps.

    His comments on Elliot's career were interesting. He made Elliot sound like he has been a victim, but I didn't hear that from Elliot himself. He talked about Elliot having to break through so many more barriers than anybody else. About Elliot having to be so much better than everybody else. What were those barriers? I really want to understand where racism has impacted Elliot's career but I didn't get that from this conversation.

  • Downtime Podcast

    10/14/2020 11:09 AM

    Hi Oz, first up, thanks for taking the time to listen to this episode. As the interviewer, I'll give my personal view on why I didn't dig deeper into Eliot's prior experience of being discriminated against, despite him giving a few examples in the podcast. I didn't personally feel that there was too much benefit in going deeper there as I'm not convinced it really helps to solve anything, and I wanted to try and put together an episode that gave some background, helped explain some of the challenges we face, the huge potential benefits of working as a community to increase diversity in the sport, and signpost some resources for people who wanted to learn more and think about how they can help. I really hope that in 2020 we don't need to get into the specifics of someone's personal experience in order to believe that there are race issues present everywhere, and by that I don't just mean overt racism. There is a tonne of stuff that is invisible, like unconscious bias, which is built into many of us, myself included. The first step is to accept that it's there, then the challenge becomes how you deal with it. That's just my personal view, not necessarily right or wrong, but I wanted to share it with you.

    As for Phil's views, right or wrong, that's how he feels, and I find that a real shame. I would personally like to be part of the solution for that, rather than debating it.

    I'm sorry that this episode hasn't been of value to you, however there are plenty more podcast episodes on the topic of racism out there, so hopefully there will be something that resonates more with you than this did.

  • Oz_Taylor

    10/14/2020 1:05 PM

    Hi Chris? Thanks for your reply. I actually thought you introduced the episode well, and clearly stated your position and the level of your knowledge on the whole subject. So from that, I knew it wouldn't go into great depths and that it wasn't going to be an interrogation.

    But for me, when somebody is given a platform, the information and opinions they share should be scrutinised. I felt compelled to respond because mountain biking is so close to my heart. To have this guy, who is unknown in the mtb community, on one of the most popular mtb websites talking about colonialism, the slave trade, the Windrush generation, and lynching is divisive.

    I really hope that in 2020, we don't need to get into the specifics of what the KKK or slavers did, to know that those events were horrific and should never be repeated. I fail to see the link between those things and racism in mountain biking today. You can use as many woke terms as you like, but hyperbole and sweeping statements need questioning, not simply accepting as fact, just because they are coming from a person of colour.

    In fact, after his tirade, he went on to say that he has never experienced any form of racism out on the trails. And that bikers are friendly and just stoked to see other people riding. And that he has friends with money (did he mention Porsches and fancy watches?) who never think of venturing into the countryside for a bike ride, in spite of their wealth. So which is it? Is there racism in mountain biking, putting up all those barriers, or is it simply down to the fact that 'mountain' biking tends to happen outside of the city, where most BAME (I don't like that term either) people live in the UK? I agree that there are historical reasons why BAME people live in inner cities, and there is prejudice and inequality, but that's not the fault of mountain biking or mountain bikers.

    Although it didn't go very deep, I'm glad that this episode was made and like you, I would like to find a solution to the division and hate that seems to be spreading around the western world. Mtb was my escape from all this craziness, but here it is, raising its ugly head, but not from someone who has been heavily involved in the sport. I listened to Elliots instagram post back in June and I agree with most of what he said but not all of his logic. Some of it I didn't understand and I guess I was hoping that this podcast might have touched on those things.

    Thanks and keep up the good work!

  • Downtime Podcast

    10/15/2020 12:06 AM

    I just want to be clear, we're not saying mountain bikers are racist, or it's a racist sport, but just acknowledging that racism is everywhere, even if it's not overt, I don't consider myself racist, but I carry racial biases that I have to consciously work to remove. As you say, Phil's experience as a rider has been very positive, which is really great, and a good sign that if we can attract more minority groups to the sport then they will have a good experience.

    I personally feel that the history discussed here is important for two main reasons.
    1. Not a lot of people are aware of this history, and it's an important part of the overall (see point 2). I personally wasn't aware of the UK involvement with the slave trade, and the details of the Windrush generation until very recently and I'm 41!
    2. The history is a part of why we are now suffering from underrepresentation from some minority groups in the outdoors. I think Phil did a good job of explaining why a lot of people of colour in the UK live in inner cities and as a result, haven't been exposed to amazing sports like ours. He also mentioned the Jim Crow laws in the US which meant African Americans were forbidden to access public parks.

    So if we (riders, brands etc) understand the reasons for underrepresentation then that can help us actively work to improve on that area. If we are also aware and accepting that racism exists and that there are elements of racism that are inherent and often invisible, then we can work on ourselves to ensure that minority groups have a great and inclusive experience when they do come to the sport. If we do those things then over time many many people and the sport will benefit.

    It sounds like we both want the same outcome, even if we don't completely agree on how to bring it about or what's important along the way. I guess I haven't 'scrutinised' Phil in this episode as based on everything I am aware of (and like I said my knowledge on this topic is not extensive, although I have read a fair bit over the last few years) I felt his statements were relevant, informative and accurate. If I've missed anything there, I can only apologise, but I did my best with what I have available to me in order to make a positive impact. On the whole, this episode has had a hugely positive response, so on balance, I'm happy with it.

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