Rosslyn Park’s Neville Edwards hopes the Black Lives Matter movement will result in something tangible and he believes it is a positive step towards a change in society.
The death of George Floyd in Minnesota has resulted in a global push for racial equality, with sport also playing a vital role in promoting an important message.
Edwards, who has played in the top three tiers of English rugby, says the current conversations around racism are on the right track, but admitted it is disappointing to still be discussing the issue in the 21st century.
“I am pretty happy that these conversations are starting now,” Edwards told ncarugby.com. “This kind of thing has been happening for a very long time now and it has been brushed under the carpet by a lot of people so it is good that those conversations are opening up and people are starting to realise that this is affecting people’s lives.
“It is a bit frustrating for me as a black human-being that I still kind of have to justify things and explain myself and things like that.
“We are on a good track that we are starting to make progress and have these conversations, but it is negative that we are in 2020 and we are still in a dated era. There is no real place for people being segregated in this world in my opinion, no matter what your race is, no matter what your disability is or anything like. It shouldn’t be happening.”
Edwards also revealed that he has personally suffered racial abuse during his career and the 32-year-old admitted if he was subject to that kind of discrimination again, he would walk off the pitch.
The National One player added: “I have experienced that and from a fan perspective, I have experienced it where fans have chanted horrible things at me before and because I was so young at the time, I could hear it, but I was so wrapped up in the game.
“Now when I look back on it, I think to myself, how is that allowed? Why has no-one else recognised that? Why is no-one else speaking up for this matter? Footballers experience it quite a lot and really, nothing has been said. We are in position now that we should be voicing that that opinion.
“If something like that was to happen now because we are a decade past what happened to me, I’d definitely be walking off the pitch and speaking to the ref. It is just not acceptable.
“I am there to do a job. Everyone else on the pitch is there to do a job and create entertainment for the crowd and that is something you shouldn’t have to experience when you are doing something you love.”
Neville, who returned to Rosslyn Park at the start of the 2018/19 campaign, believes educating people on the topic of black history can play a part in the positive change, which in turn, could filter into sport and into rugby in particular.
“At my school, I didn’t learn that much black history,” Edwards said. “I learnt a little bit, but not enough. It is something which should be there because if you think about November 11th at 11am, we have the minute’s silence to remember the World War which I really, really respect, however when you have encouraged other cultures to come over into your country, you do have to respect their beliefs as well.
“That is part of the education through schools and everything that can help so if kids are taught about black history in schools, they will understand what they are feeling. They might not fully understand it, but they will understand the journey that has happened.
“The problem is people don’t actually know what’s gone on in the past so that is a massive thing. That could then filter into rugby and having the RFU enforce that would really help.”