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 free.

It was with some interest that I learned more about Australia's unique version of racism meted out upon the Aboriginal people. For years, the Australians had been looking for a "final solution" to their "Aboriginal problem". In America, we segregated Blacks, Hitler committed the Jews to genocide, but the Australian's ethnic cleansing was one of the strangest things that I have ever heard. To remove the "inferior" Aboriginal presence in Australia, they kidnapped Aboriginal children-especially those with mixed blood, from their parents and gave them to white Australian families.

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.

The Olympics also spoke to all Americans (whether of color or not) about our shared history of racism. How many gold medals did African-Americans win? Much can be said about the commercialization of the Olympics. However, for a few days this fall, humanity outdistanced itself. It added inches to the long road that must be traveled before all of God's people are free at last from the chains of racism. All people suffer from this plague upon our world-both the victims and the oppressors. None of us will be free until all are free. Several weeks ago, all humanity got a glimpse of the gold that lies ahead for all of God's children when we reach the goal of equality, justice, and freedom for all. Then and only then will we be truly cleansed-once and forever.

This article appeared in the Dixon Telegraph on 11/23/00.