As the world grapples with the vestiges of racism, the historic 1936 Olympics in Berlin – during Nazi German leader Adolf Hitler's rule – will always be remembered. While Hitler wanted to use the event to back up his Aryan supremacist views, Jesse Owens – a multitalented gold medallist athlete from America – not only made the Nazi leader eat humble pie with his triumphs at the Games, he brought to the global attention the dangers in racially segregated America. To protest racial inequality, confounding critics who said blacks could not rise up to any sporting challenge, other African-American athletes...
As the world grapples with the vestiges of racism, the historic 1936 Olympics in Berlin – during Nazi German leader Adolf Hitler's rule – will always be remembered.

While Hitler wanted to use the event to back up his Aryan supremacist views, Jesse Owens – a multitalented gold medallist athlete from America – not only made the Nazi leader eat humble pie with his triumphs at the Games, he brought to the global attention the dangers in racially segregated America.

To protest racial inequality, confounding critics who said blacks could not rise up to any sporting challenge, other African-American athletes not only excelled at subsequent Olympics, but two sprinters famously gave a black power salute on the podium in 1968 – highlighting the dangers of racism.

From the Red Summer racial terror lynchings of blacks in Rosewood, to the latest killings of George Floyd, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Breonna Taylor, the US, like South Africa, has seen the worst when it comes to racial killings.

Like Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who used athletics to take a stand against racism, British Formula One racing driver Lewis Hamilton has become the latest sporting great to bring to world attention the threat caused by racially motivated violence.

While there has been criticism by former racing drivers and pressure from F1's governing body against Hamilton for his public support for the Black Lives Matter campaign, the driver took a principled decision and deserves global endorsement for his stance.

He may not be a politician or what others have referred to as "a militant", but being an internationally recognised sportsman puts him in a position of leadership in the eyes of fans and the public.

For people to have seen him donning a T-shirt and helmet bearing the words "Black Lives Matter" is something to be supported./\r\n/
Coming from a past of racism that has seen black SA citizens killed by apartheid functionaries, Hamilton's crusade is something we should identify with in rooting out the ugly scourge.

From Sharpeville to Boipatong, Uitenhage to Langa, this country has been through so much pain, with death squads and police having been used in the past by successive apartheid regimes to suppress and kill with impunity.

The past week has seen how much damage divisive racial advertising – in the Clicks hair advert saga – can cause.

In what former public protector Thuli Madonsela, now law professor at the University of Stellenbosch, has described as a human rights issue and "a textbook case of unconscious bias," we have seen how naive some of us are.

For an advertising company to be unaware of what a racially divisive advert can cause, is not only being careless but helping to further polarise the nation.

So toxic is racial discrimination that scientists at the University of Southern California (USC) last year found that it could account for as much as 50% of heightened inflammation among African-Americans – raising the risk of chronic illness.

Said USC associate professor of psychology and psychiatry April Thames: "I looked at it [racism] as a chronic stressor. Our results showed that racial discrimination appears to trigger an inflammatory response among African-Americans at the cellular level."

Meanwhile – like in South Africa where constitutional racism has been outlawed – there will always be pockets of individuals and groups, holding on to the past.

It takes more than a campaign to normalise an abnormal society.

The hard task of healing a racist past


Brian Sokutu.

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