Saturday, June 03, 2006

Didn’t They Spit on Jesse Owens, Too?

Legendary Olympic Track Star Jesse Owens, from Wikipedia:

Owens was cheered enthusiastically by 110,000 people in Berlin's Olympic Stadium and later ordinary Germans sought his autograph when they saw him in the streets. However back in New York, after the ticker-tape parade in his honor, Owens had to ride the freight elevator to attend a reception for him at the Waldorf-Astoria.

He later recounted:

When I came back to my native country, after all the stories about Hitler, I couldn't ride in the front of the bus. I had to go to the back door. I couldn't live where I wanted. I wasn't invited to shake hands with Hitler, but I wasn't invited to the White House to shake hands with the President, either.

70 years—a generation ago—and things are…worse today:

Surge in Racist Mood Raises Concerns on Eve of World Cup
By JERE LONGMAN Published: June 4, 2006, NY TIMES

...Players and antiracism experts said they expected offensive behavior during the tournament, including monkey-like chanting; derisive singing; the hanging of banners that reflect neofascist and racist beliefs; and perhaps the tossing of bananas or banana peels, all familiar occurrences during matches in Spain, Italy, eastern Germany and eastern Europe.

"For us it's quite clear this is a reflection of underlying tensions that exist in European societies," said Piara Powar, director of the London-based antiracist soccer organization Kick It Out. He said that in Eastern Europe, "poverty, unemployment is a problem."

"Indigenous people are looking for easy answers to blame," he said. "Often newcomers bear the brunt of the blame."

"...Indigenous people blame newcomers"--Now why does that sound like the anti-immigration chant heard around the good ole USA these days?

There’s more:

As he left the soccer field after a club match in the eastern German city of Halle on March 25, the Nigerian forward Adebowale Ogungbure was spit upon, jeered with racial remarks and mocked with monkey noises. In rebuke, he placed two fingers under his nose to simulate a Hitler mustache and thrust his arm in a Nazi salute.

In a move to quell mockery of this sort, German authorities immediately investigated… Ogungbure!

But a charge of unconstitutional behavior against him was soon dropped because his gesture had been meant to renounce extremist activity.

"I regret what I did," Ogungbure said in a telephone interview from Leipzig. "I should have walked away. I'm a professional, but I'm a human, too. They don't spit on dogs. Why should they spit on me? I felt like a nobody."

A professional athlete drops his veil to stoop to human emotionalism. How low we have sunk since Jesse Owens:

When I passed the Chancellor he arose, waved his hand at me, and I waved back at him. I think the writers showed bad taste in criticizing the man of the hour in Germany. --from Wikipedia

Since people are all the same everywhere, the base human nature of prejudice, and the ignorant anger it spawns, is common to us all, as is the potential to acheive understanding and tolerance for each other that will overcome bigotry and hatred.

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