Thursday, October 12, 2006
In 1968 I was only 3 years old so I do not remember the civil rights/racial discrimination statement made by two African-American/black athletes at the Mexico City Olympics but the image of Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the winners' podiums is etched in my memory. To highlight the USA's racial problems Smith and Carlos stood on the podium (at the gold and bronze medal levels) with bowed heads and black leather gloves on one hand each raised in a Black Power salute.
But who was the white guy standing on the silver medal level?
Peter Norman of Australia won the silver medal for the 200 meters sprint. Mr. Norman died last week at age 64 prompting newspapers to comment on the 1968 Olympics protest. The back story on Mr. Norman - that I had no awareness of until I read this article about his death - is that he "wore a human rights badge on his shirt in support of the two Americans and their statement against racial discrimination in the USA" (source: USA Today).
To be clear I am ashamed of my country's slavery past and our struggle with civil rights and while I congratulate Mr. Norman posthumously I can't help but highlight Mr. Norman's own country's dark and troubled history regarding the tragic treatment of aborigines in Australia whom were nearly exterminated by English colonizers:
Perhaps I missed it but it would have been great to have seen a similar protest on the medals podium at the 2000 Sydney Olympics to highlight the plight of the aborigines. The USA does not hold a monopoly over the world in terms of treating minorities poorly so let the record be clear that all nations need to examine their own histories.
Free your mind,