Tag Archives: race

Painting F1 Win in the Wrong Colour

By Jason Menard

Until this weekend I didn’t know that there WEREN’T any black winners on the Formula 1 circuit. So you might want to forgive me for feeling that the media hoopla centring on the fact that Lewis Hamilton became the first black driver to win an F1 event is simply making an issue out of something that doesn’t need to be raised.

Maybe I’m naïve, but aren’t we past the time where we should care what colour somebody’s skin is in any field – whether it’s sports, politics, entertainment, or commerce? And while people are lauding Hamilton ’s win as a huge step forward in the sport, I see the coverage of the event as one huge step backwards in acceptance.

After all, Hamilton ’s not getting the recognition because he won the Canadian Grand Prix. He’s getting recognition because he’s black – and he won the event.

Now, I’ll admit that I’m not the biggest F1 fan in the world. I never saw the appeal of the sport, even though I have friends who are avid watchers. I could probably name a half dozen drivers both past and present (and two of them are named Villeneuve), so I’m not an aficionado of the sport. But the one thing I do know now is that the biggest news in this sport is that a black guy won.

You know, I never gave any thought to the skin colour of the drivers in the past, so why am I supposed to care now? When do we move on and stop recognizing colour-based feats and simply recognize people for their skills?

Maybe I don’t get it because I’m a 34-year-old white male. But don’t I have the skin tone that’s allegedly the problem in this situation? After all, if it’s such a big deal that someone who doesn’t possess my skin colour wins, shouldn’t I have experienced an epiphany somewhere?

I didn’t. And I won’t. Simply because I don’t care about skin colour. It doesn’t mean anything to me. And I’d hazard a guess to say it doesn’t mean a lot to most people.

Look, I love hockey, football, basketball – any number of sports. And not once have I ever contextualized a person’s achievement by the colour of their skin. I wasn’t born into a world where Jackie Robinson’s breaking of the colour barrier was a brave exception. I was born into a world where that was history – that interracial mingling was the way life was. When I watch a sport, all I care about is the quality of play – not the ethnicity, colour, religious beliefs, or sexuality of the players.

I don’t deal with words like acceptance and tolerance because I don’t see that skin colour is anything that I should have to accept or tolerate. It is a part of a person’s body, but it does not define who they are. The words acceptance and tolerance indicate that something is beyond the norm and is, in some way, unappealing to your established norms. I was never brought up – nor have I raised my children — to believe that there was anything “wrong” with someone’s skin colour. So just as I never saw reasons to denigrate someone because of the colour of their skin, so too do I not see the reason to raise someone up because of the same factor.

In the end, wouldn’t it say much more about our society if we could simply state that Lewis Hamilton won the event without any reference to the colour of his skin? Wouldn’t it be a greater comment on our understanding of the nature of diversity if we focused on the things he directly controlled — his skill, his dedication, and his effort – than a factor of birth over which he had no choice?

In the end, maybe I’m naïve. Maybe we do need to bring the fact that Hamilton is black to light because there are still those in the dark. Maybe we have to have Rooney Rules and other affirmative action practices because there are still those who discriminate in their hiring policies. Maybe I’ve just been extremely lucky not to have met anyone who hates people or judges them based on their skin colour.

Maybe I live in a world where my friends come from all over the world with all types of backgrounds: Muslim and Jewish, black and Oriental, male and female, gay and straight. Maybe the majority of people I know who share my idea that one’s ethnicity or skin colour has no relevance to the quality of the person are, in fact, the minority.

Maybe I’m wrong in thinking that the world had changed. Maybe I’m wrong for holding no guilt for the tragedies committed in the past by those who share nothing with me more than a skin colour. I define myself by the quality of the person I am, by the values I hold dear, and the way I try to live my life in the best way possible. And I look for that in those with whom I choose to associate. Just because crimes have been perpetrated in the past by Caucasian people, am I to be painted with the same brush? Does a shared skin colour trump the fact that when it comes to things that matter – ideology, values, and beliefs – I don’t have anything in common with those people other than being white?

What I do know is that I didn’t care what colour Hamilton was this weekend, and the only reason it’s become a factor is because other people made it into an issue. And maybe we won’t be a truly interracial, culturally diverse society until we can stop inserting colour into the definition of one’s achievements.

To me, it’s a simple as black and white. But the coverage of Hamilton ’s win and the focus on his skin colour shows that there are still shades of grey out there.

2007© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Not So Black and White

By Jason Menard

I’ve always considered myself colourblind when it comes to issues of race – but maybe my vision’s not as pure as I think.

Oddly enough, this revelation came from watching an episode of Lost. Without getting too involved in the plot, an older black woman has been expressing her certainty that her husband was still alive, despite being in the back of the plane when it tore apart. Recently we met new characters, survivors from the back, and one – a slightly older black man, I assumed was her husband.

In fact, it was an older white man who turned out to be her husband. And I never even considered the possibility.

Was I outraged at the depiction of an interracial marriage on TV? No. It doesn’t bother me in the least. I honestly believe we’re all the same on the inside, and the exterior doesn’t matter. But what bothers me is that I assumed that the black male would be the black woman’s husband – never entertaining the possibility of a mixed-race union.

Why is it that I can pass thousands of same-colour couples, both black and white, and not notice them, while I notice the mixed-race couples? I don’t judge, don’t discriminate – and really don’t care about these people and I go on my merry way. But why do I notice them – not the others?

You know who I blame? Spike Lee. Well, not just Spike Lee, but I blame those who consistently reinforce the negative aspects of our society and continue to hold up race as a divisive issue.

I understand that, for some people, race is an issue and there are deep-rooted discriminatory beliefs that need to be address and eradicated. But the flip side of this is that this sort of activism plants a seed in the minds of those whose thoughts aren’t infested by this insidious racism. Because the mirror has been held up to society so long, we’re noticing the reflections as aberrations, as opposed to the natural unions and co-existence they should be.

So how do we balance the need to educate those who continue to hold on tightly to the reins of ignorance and steer them to enlightenment, with the damaging effects that shining a spotlight on these issues can have for those of us who don’t consider colour and race an issue? Are activists, who rightly strive for a day when race and religion are not an issue, compromising their ideals and dreams by making race and religion something to be noticed – an issue, however benign, in the minds of those who previously wouldn’t even factor them in our day-to-day life?

I wasn’t brought up to discriminate and I can say I have a collection of friends that span a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds. It’s not something of which I boast, or which I’m proud, simply because it’s just what it is. It’s not something I think about. Nor is race or religion a determining factor in how I develop my social relationships. There are so many other reasons not to like someone that using the colour of their skin, the God they choose (or choose not) to worship, or their country of origin, just seems so petty. They are my friends, and I’m proud to have them as friends – independent of their country of origin.

In discussing this issue with others, I spoke of how in my life I’ve had a number of friends of various ethnicities. But as I thought further, I remembered even more that came from different countries and religions. I didn’t think of them as my black friend, or my Bengali friend – they were just friends. Their colour and creed weren’t an issue, nor were they of interest to me, except as an opportunity to explore and learn about another culture. But these are ancillary benefits – the main benefit was, and is, friendship.

I hate the fact that people will say, “Oh, I’m blessed to have good black friends like…” or “I have a lot of Hispanic friends…” in their conversation. I’m blessed to have these people as friends first and foremost. Their ethnicities are ancillary to our friendship. Of course, when it comes to dinner, I appreciate their backgrounds more – I’m not going to say no to a good Lebanese or Greek meal.

I look no further than my daughter, who will soon be turning four. She has had a friend for a couple of years now, who happens to be black. But instead of remarking on the colour of her skin, what impressed upon my daughter was that she had curly hair. To this day, her skin colour has never come up – it just is what it is.

And that’s the way it should be. And that’s the way it can be. As a writer, I love adjectives, but not when it comes to describing people. The best description I can give to anyone — whether black, white, gay, straight, Muslim, Jewish, Atheist, or Christian – is friend — and friend alone.

But the mirror to our society as a whole has been held up — and I don’t like how it’s affected me. Like a funhouse mirror, we’ve created aberrations where, for many, only a clear reflection would normally appear.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved