I have one rule, when I publish a piece in some magazine: let it go, don’t answer to the comments: everyone can have his own idea about what I wrote.
But my article about Peter Norman http://griotmag.com/en/white-man-in-that-photo/ had an enormous, incredible number of sharings worldwide: 300.000 on Facebook, over 5.000 tweet about it; so I think it’s right for me to leave just one single, public comment to clearly explain some things for which some readers criticized me.
Some of them said I’m tryn’ to “whitewash” the story.
No, they’re wrong, this wasn’t absolutely my intention.
When I say that FOR ME Peter Norman is the hero of this story, I’m not looking at the color of his skin: he could be white, black, yellow or a man from the moon, it’s not the real matter.
I’m not a historical resarcher, I’m not an activist, I’m not a journalist.
I’m just a writer (or this is what I’m tryin’ to be) and I decided to tell this story to my readers. My piece is not about who was “more hero” or about which country was good or bad or better.
My piece, all of this story, it’s about men and choices.
Norman found himself in this historical moment and in just few seconds he made a choice and he had the strongness to repeat the same choice all through the years, even if he was silently sufferin’ alone and he could retreat to save himself.
If you listen to Carlos and Smith public speeches I think you can clearly understand that the real struggle started after that race and that night. And you can listen how grateful they are to this man.
Tommie Smith and John Carlos made an enormous thing, they changed the story and finally the whole world recognized their role.
Norman decided in just one moment, and his decision changed and, in some way, destroyed his life. The most impressive thing in this story, for me as a man and as a writer, it’s not about that single night but about the silent strengthness he had to never make one step down.
This is not a competition beetween Smith, Carlos and Norman.They ran one against other only in that night of 1968, after they always ran together.
This story is so powerful and has been so shared not because I’m so good as a writer, but because it deeply touches a lot of hearts. Because is a story of sport and courage, friendship and loyalty.
It’s a story about the strenghtness of being human.
And all of these things, they have no colour.
The second thing.
Some people from England wrote me, angry because a used the expression “simpering englishmen”.
Yes, I used it. I used to explain another kind of stereotiph, a stupid semplification even I was doin’, when I was younger and I looked at that photo, keepin’ my eyes to those beautiful, strong black men and don’t lookin’ at the white man, like he didn’t exist.
My eyes, like the eyes of all the world, they were all taken by those fist up in the air and I didn’t even notice the color of the uniform, green, instead of the white english uniform. My expression tried to explain how wrong we all can be just takin’ a look at a photo and judge without think.
I think in Italian version my ironic tone was more clear and I’m sorry if someone couldn’t understand it and felt hurt.
The last thing.
I received a lot of thankful and lovely messages through mail and social network from all over the world.
I also received some offences, that was predictable.
Yesterday a young man wrote me this racist message: “Go fuck yourself, dago piece of shit”.
I think it clearly explains how still long is this road.
“History doesn’t repeat itself. But it does rhyme” (Mark Twain).
Sorry for my bad english and best regards to all of you.
The story of Peter Norman and also the separate one dedicated especially to Tommie Smith and John Carlos are included in my book “Abbiamo toccato le stelle”. – Storia di campioni che hanno cambiato il mondo ( “We touched the stars – Stories of champions that changed the world”).
Pubblished by Rizzoli, the book includes 20 sport stories, sold over 20.000 copies and won two italian national awards for sport books.
The book is still not translated in English.
Everyone interested in more informations can mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org