John Amaechi: how the first NBA player to come out is now teaching us all about white privilege

He first picked up a basketball in a Stockport gym at 17 – by 26 he was playing professionally in the US. Now a psychologist, he discusses life as a 6ft 9in teen, sport’s radical stars, and the backlash to his recent BBC video

Last month, John Amaechi, the psychologist and former National Basketball Association (NBA) player, made a short video for the BBC’s homework site Bitesize. Stylish, bespectacled, and with a scholarly white beard, Amaechi explains the concept of white privilege simply enough for his presumed audience of school-aged children to understand. “White privilege doesn’t mean you haven’t worked hard or you don’t deserve the success you’ve had,” he points out reassuringly. “It doesn’t mean that your life isn’t hard or that you’ve never suffered. It simply means that your skin colour has not been the cause of your hardship or suffering.”

The clip went viral, with adults praising its empathy and clarity in the face of a thorny subject. But inevitably there was a backlash, too, with the BBC’s Andrew Neil chiming in on Twitter to suggest, in the name of balance, that the BBC should put out a video arguing that “white privilege is an unhelpful confection”.

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