Monday, 20 August 2012

"Go and tell your kids the story of Peter Norman"



I first published this blog on 11 Oct 2006. Today the Australian Parliament voted to offer Mr Norman a posthumous apology for the treatment he received subsequent to this public act of solidarity against racism.

You can see a report of the issue and the profound effect on various people by clicking here.

Click here for lovely opinion piece about the treatment of Norman.



Mural, house near Macdonaldtown Station, Sydney

At the Mexico Olympics in 1968, Australian runner, Peter Norman, won the silver medal in the 200 metres, behind gold medallist Tommie Smith, and ahead of John Carlos, two Americans.

Tommie Smith and John Carlos were pall bearers at Peter Norman's funeral on Monday. They remained friends after the moment on the victory dais in Mexico which shook the world. The photo of the event was declared by LIFE magazine and Le Monde to be one of the 20 most influential images of the 20th century.

The Americans were shoeless, an expression of their empathy with the poor, and each wore a single black glove, which they raised in a black power salute during the American national anthem. Norman stood alongside them wearing the badge of the Olympic Project for Human Rights. He fully supported their actions, and had suggested to them, that as they had only one pair of black gloves, they wear one each.

"We knew that what we were going to do was far greater than any athletic feat. He said, 'I'll stand with you'." Carlos said he expected to see fear in Norman's eyes. He didn't. "I saw love. Peter never flinched (on the dais). He never turned his eyes, he never turned his head. He never said so much as 'ouch'. You guys have lost a great soldier." Carlos said that Norman deserved to be as well-known as Steve Irwin. "Go and tell your kids the story of Peter Norman," he said.

The US Track and Field Federation has declared October 9 Peter Norman Day.

Thanks to Kate_R for telling me about this mural.

Newspaper story

12 comments:

  1. I actually saw this when it happened. I don't remember much about it.

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  2. I have just a shadow of a memory of this taking place. Thanks for all the links; I especially enjoyed seeing the funeral photo with the two pallbearers. True solidarity. Uplifting post in so many respects!

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  3. Oh I remember the race and medal ceremony very well, but I have no idea about why Norman needed an apology. Was he attacked? By whom? Why did people wait till he was dead, before the apology arrived?

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    1. Silver medal or not, Norman was now a pariah in Australia, a country that at the time held racial exclusion laws that rivalled apartheid South Africa.

      He was banned from running. He was denied a spot on the 1972 Olympic team after qualifying. He and his family were harassed, refused work, and made to suffer.
      https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/51989

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  4. Hels: well, he was pretty much cast out by the Olympic Committee. He ran 13 qualifying times for the 1972 Olympics and was not chosen to go. He was the fastest Australian qualifier, so there wa sno men's sprint team at the Munich Olys.

    As well, he was not asked to be part of the Sydney 2000 honoring of previous Australian Olympians. Instead, he wa sa guest of the US team.

    Apparently he was shunned and outcast as a result of his actions.

    Read more here: http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/4175224.html

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  5. Sally

    it doesn't make sense, does it? Norman stood there very modestly, not making any gesture. The Australian Olympic officials must have "believed" that Norman had radical thoughts "in his mind".

    Dawn Fraser was expelled for 10 years in 1964, but at least she did something. Fraser's Olympic officials were juvenile, petty and sexist, but with Norman they were mind readers :(

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  6. He wore a Civil Rights badge!!!
    Un-Olympian it seems.
    An Australian boxer got in trouble this year for wearing a t-shirt with an Aboriginal flag on it, and Cathy Freeman got in trouble years ago for doing a lap of honour at the Commonwealth games with both an Australian flag and Aboriginal flag!

    (He was also the one who suggested they wear one glove each - one of the Americans had left his behind in the Village.)

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  7. He wore a Civil Rights badge!!!
    Un-Olympian it seems.
    An Australian boxer got in trouble this year for wearing a t-shirt with an Aboriginal flag on it, and Cathy Freeman got in trouble years ago for doing a lap of honour at the Commonwealth games with both an Australian flag and Aboriginal flag!

    (He was also the one who suggested they wear one glove each - one of the Americans had left his behind in the Village.)

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  8. I find it really interesting in terms of "how things change". One day we will look back and consider it quaint, or ridiculous or so out of step with prevailing attitudes to have had people oppose same sex marriage.

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  9. Sally

    Good to see you back after so long and hope things generally are OK with you despite your for-personal-reasons blog absence.

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  10. Great post Sally. You haven't blogged for a while: moving on to other pursuits I suppose? I hope you're well. Take care.

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