ANDRE GRAY’S back is decorated with influential figures from the civil rights movement permanently tattooed into his skin.
And the Watford striker hopes the recent surge in awareness thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement results in lasting change in the government’s “racially biased” set-up.
Gray, 28, has many famous faces inked into his back including Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Ali, Rosa Parks, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, Huey P. Newton, Bob Marley, Malcom X and Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
And in an interview with the Times, the Hornets forward – who was stabbed in in the face after a scuffle between gangs in 2011 – discussed the inspiration he takes from the past and how he hopes it can change the future.
But he first took aim at the government and said: “We live in a capitalist country, you’ve got the higher class and the lower class.
“The way the government is set up is racially biased and the people in these communities are not cared for. The system is designed for them to fail, and they’re just left to it.
“So when these things do happen and they’re making out like they’re doing something about it, the only way they’ll do it is by sending the police out there to racially profile them. So It’s a very deep-rooted system.”
Speaking about the recent Black Lives Matter protests, Gray points to widespread anger in society and understands why a small minority of protests have turned violent.
He added: “The things happening today are similar [to historic protests]. It’s not a race war and people seem to be trying to turn it into one.
“The majority are peaceful protests but then you do have a small minority who are angry and do resort to violence or whatever.
“You’ve got the majority who are probably more towards Martin Luther King and then the few that are a bit more [on the] Malcolm X side. People are angry at the end of the day.”
Having watched the film Roots as a youngster Gray was affected by the story of the slave Kunta Kunte and it urged him to learn more.
He said: “I’ve seen Django and 12 Years a Slave but it never hit me as bad as when I watched Roots.
“That made me realise I need to understand these things more, gain knowledge, because it’s part of my history and I’ve never been taught it.
“It was intriguing to dig deep and find out what these people really represented.
“I just think that me and my family wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for people like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and so on.
“They were the revolution. They started the civil rights movement. Then you’ve got Rosa Parks who made a stand and made noise. Then you’ve got the Olympics where they stood on the podium and united.”
Despite the importance of using his platform on social media to spread the message, Gray thinks it’s important for people to convert their words to actions as seen in recent protests and marches.
He continued: “Actions speak louder than words and I’d rather be there as well and back up what I’m preaching on my social media than sitting there behind a keyboard because that’s easy to do now.
“It’s good to go there, be on the front line and really feel it and take it in.”
Gray attended a recent Black Lives Matter protest in London with his Little Mix Finacee Leigh-Anne Pinnock.
And he is keen to explain that success does not mean people do not experience racism.
He added: ““The main perception most people have probably got of me and Leigh-Anne is that, ‘you’re both successful, you’re both in good jobs, why are you complaining?’
“That’s not the point at all because we’re still both racially profiled. Even if we aren’t, we are in privileged positions and we are treated differently because of who we are but we‘re not fighting for us, exactly.
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“It’s for people that are not in our position, who aren’t as privileged as us, and aren’t able to make high-end careers.
“We are fighting for people who haven’t got opportunities and need opportunities, and where things need to change for them to excel.”
Watford host Leicester at 12:15pm at Vicarage Road today.