Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The White Guy

I was seven years old and in love with all things sport. I remember pretty clearly when Tommie Smith and John Carlos walked up to the podium to accept their medals for winning the gold and bronze medals at the Mexico City Summer Olympics. I remember very clearly the two men swinging their medals casually like whirlygigs as they walked off the pedestal after standing and listening to the national anthem. I vaguely remember them being haranged by the ABC broadcasters for being disrespectful. But I don't remember anything about the white guy. And he died last week.

I had no idea that Austrailan Peter Norman knew what Smith and Carlos were up to. I had no idea that he wore a human rights badge in solidarity with the two black Americans. And even reading the local paper which pointed out that Norman was "a physical education teacher" I would not have learned that he paid a real price for standing up there and supporting their protest. He was blackballed from the Sydney Olympics. He was left to be a P.E. teacher and he didn't complain about it. And Smith and Carlos were pallbearers at his funeral. The three had been friends ever since that day. Carlos's kids called him "Uncle Pete." There's something damn beautiful about that white guy. I'm going to make sure that a few more folks remember him.

1 comment:

ibfamous said...

my favorite definition of history is that "it's just one damn thing after another." the beauty of history is not simply the events but how people react to them. the white guy manned up and may have paid a price to external forces, but it seems he stayed intact within.