Friday, February 8, 2008

Racism & Sports--not an American phenomenon

I've been starting to do research on sports and race for a chapter I'm writing on Tiger Woods (so expect to see more posts about Tiger), and I tripped across this article in The New York Times by Richard Chang called "Racism Hits Formula One in Spain" (click on title for link).

There is a black Formula One racer, Lewis Hamilton, who experienced racist taunts and Spanish fans in black face when he went behind the wheel at a recent race.

Which just goes to show, racism and sports is not simply an American phenomenon (because of course, racism is not limited to the borders of the U.S.)


Hilaire said...

There's also a pretty shocking amount of blatant and open racism among European soccer fans, from what I understand. Won't be hard to find sources on that - I feel like I see newspaper and magazine articles about it every time I'm in Europe.

Jason Clinkscales said...

Not that I only comment on anything regarding sports, but when I saw your post about Hamilton this morning, the first thing that came to mind was a piece from HBO's Real Sports that came on in 2005. Shortly before the World Cup in Germany in 2006, ESPN essentially rehashed the same story, but it was still a well done feature.

I have only been overseas once and it was a three-week trip in London back in 2004. I attended a rugby match (it was actually their professional ;eague's championship game) and in all honestly, didn't think much about the racial dynamics of sports outside of the US. Afterwards, through conversations with several Britons over the years (including my brother-in-law), the topic began to come up more often.

Not to say that we Americans have our own special brand of racism, but if there is one thing that I have learned about American history is that for better or worse, most of our racial perceptions have been shaped through sports. While I don't think that discrimination is just limited to the US, it seems as if we look to some of these ugly European incidents as a way of saying "see, we're not as bad as they are". Maybe I'm completely wrong, but you have inspired my own investigation, sort of speak.

Jennifer said...

The more I start to read about sports and race the more I want to really investigate this further. Hilaire, I have also heard that European soccer fans can be particularly nasty and pretty racist, and Jason, I do wonder about the link between our racial perceptions and sports. If popular culture/film is any barometer, then I wonder if something like "Brians's Song" really did something to encourage better race relations. I have heard, anecdotally from friends and students, that much like that film WE ARE TITANS (or something like that know, the film with Denzel Washington) that white football players often gained a type of social consciousness from playing football and hanging out with black players. Again, this is all anecdotal and perhaps skewed since my former students are ones who show up in my Asian American lit class, and lets be honest, a student who take an Asian American lit class is probably pre-disposed towards anti-racist thinking and praxis.