Now that the Sydney Olympics are over and the fresh ink is nearly
dry in the journals of athletic success, it is time to reflect
about more than the number of gold medals and the seconds shaved
or inches added. In addition to the competition, the 27th
Olympiad provided the world an opportunity to get to
know more about Sydney and Australia in general-the good and
the bad. What struck me the most was the issue of
Australian racism and the so-called Stolen Generation. Growing
up in America, racism is an issue and has been with us since the
first slave came unwillingly to the shores of this land of the
Australia's approach to racism causes me bewilderment. Beyond the sinfulness of bigotry, what were those Aussies thinking? If Aborigines didn't match up to white standards, why in heavens name would they ever resettle the children in white families? As many as a tenth of all Aboriginal children were taken from their parents. If whites viewed themselves as superior to the Aborigines, why attempt to assimilate them? White ethnic purity would be compromised. Why did they mix their blue-bloodline with Aboriginal blood? When the Aborigines grew up, they married into white society. With this process, whites played an ironic joke upon themselves-white blood mixed with Aboriginal blood forever. And all this was done in the name of ethnic cleansing! Go figure. I guess that the Australian experiment proves again just how stupid racism is-no matter how or where it is practiced.
While the Australian government recognizes the unconscionable nature of stealing generations of Aboriginal children from their families, they are balking at saying that they are sorry to the Aborigines for the years of racism and especially for the Stolen Generation. Why would that be so difficult to do? Starting in 1910 and not ending officially until 1971, the Australians kidnapped kids from their parents! Apologize? For a moment, try to think what you would feel if you had been taken away from your parents or imagine how you would deal with seeing your children taken from you never to be seen again.
Having said this, the picture of Cathy
Freeman, the Aboriginal gold medalist, lighting the torch will
remain for all times a symbol that racism doesn't work and
that it is wrong. With grace and determination, she showed
Aussies and all others that humanity will ultimately triumph over
hatred and bigotry no matter where it is tried. Freeman's
(what's in a name?) witness to our common humanity is the
same as Jesse Owens' witness against Hitler's version
of prejudice in the Berlin Olympics a lifetime ago.
This article appeared in the Dixon Telegraph on 11/23/00.