Monday, October 20, 2008

Black Power

Tommie and John at the 1968 Olympics

Interesting story on the BBC about the man who shared the Olympic medal podium with United States' sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Summer Olympics, where the two Americans infamously made their "Black Panthers" salute protest. For his support of the two athletes, Australian Peter Norman was ostracized from the sport he loved.

Matt Norman, his nephew, created a documentary about the moment that changed the three men forever, Salute.

Its incredible how far we've come from that moment in history. Back then, the athletes were vilified for daring to protest against an American establishment which had yet to treat African-Americans as equal.

It took until 2008, 40 years later, but we finally have an major-party African-American nominee for President.

We should all learn a lesson from Peter Norman, someone who took on an unpopular position because it was the moral, right thing to do. People like that end up heroes... just not until many years later, when the rest of the world has caught up.

When I first heard the pundits talk about a so-called "Bradley effect," in which Obama may lose votes simply because of his skin color, I shook my head. It's 2008-- you've got hicks in Arkansas listening to Jay-Z-- how can people still be racists? Even subconscious ones? To me, it's like believing the world is flat or that the moon is made of cheese. Someone's a lesser person because they've got more pigment in their skin? Does that mean people with a lot of freckles are inferior? Come on...

But reading a story like this reminds me that those people over 40, who still hold the keys to this country, lived in a time when a white person supporting civil rights risked their reputation and livelihood. They lived in a time where a black man could be a hero while running around a track (or on a football field), but couldn't get a seat at a restaurant. I'd hope that since 1968, people have caught up with Peter, and are able to see Obama as a candidate, not as a color.

I suspect they have. It's about time that the color of a man doesn't disqualify him from the Presidency.

Next up, Jews?

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