Friday, April 3, 2015

The Legacy of Peter Norman: "I'll Stand By You."

When racism and prejudice rears its ugly head some Australians really stand out. A young Brisbane woman named Rachel Jacobs inspired the #illridewithyou Twitter campaign, which went the proverbial "viral".

A young Brisbane woman, Rachael Jacobs, appears to have inspired the campaign after posting a moving Facebook status about her encounter with a Muslim woman earlier in the day.

"...and the (presumably) Muslim woman sitting next to me on the train silently removes her hijab," Ms Jacobs wrote.

"I ran after her at the train station. I said 'put it back on. I'll walk with u'. She started to cry and hugged me for about a minute - then walked off alone."

Source: Martin Place siege: #illridewithyou hashtag goes viral.

Today, with the "social media", thousands, and even millions, can tune in to such campaigns online.

But "online" wasn't even technological phrase related to an Internet that didn't exist when Australia's Peter Norman won the silver medal in the 200 metres at the Mexico Olympics in 1968.

Norman created the equivalent of the #illridewithyou hashtag in 1968 when he reacted to blatant racism against American "Black athletes", saying to Carlos and Smith  "I'll stand by you" in relation to the black glove protest.  

One of Australia's most famous athletes reacted the same way Rachel Jacobs did, forty plus years before. Unfortunately, Peter Norman's "I'll stand by you" in 1968, is unknown to most Australians, because that was an age before the "social media".

Peter Norman didn't say that because he wanted recognition on some "social media" (and I'm not at all suggesting that Rachel Jacobs had "ulterior motives", or did what she did for recognition).  

Norman said it because that's what was in his heart, and he paid a hefty price for fully supporting Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who were pallbearers at his funeral when he died at the age of 64.

Peter Norman was not only a great Australian sprinter, but a great human being. 

The photo that shook the 1968 Olympics, and the world. Norman became known as "the man who split the Americans", running 20.06, a time which still stands as the Australian 200 metres record 47 years on.

Pallbearers Smith (left) and Carlos.

Tommie Smith and John Carlos pay emotional respect at the funeral of Peter Norman.


Peter Norman.

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