Friday, February 08, 2008

Acting White: Formula One's Rising Star

Last fall a great friend, lawyer and former driver introduced me and my son to Formula One-style racing. Of the 50,000 or so fans at the race, we were but a handful of blacks attending, which led to a lengthy discussion on the issues facing would-be black drivers. Of course my scheming friend would love for my son to take up the sport, and is busy plotting a course.

Fast forward to the past week when Lewis Hamilton, a budding Tiger Woods-type phenom in F1 racing, experienced racist taunts at a prep-event in Spain. The treatment of the bi-racial Brit Hamilton has set the racing world abuzz. It seems that some Spanish fans showed up in blackface, while others taunted him with epithets et cetera, as a he moved about the raceway.

The F1 governing body is moving to try to spare their racing season the same havoc that racist soccer fans repeatedly heap on that sport across the EU. Spain may lose their races as a result. For their part, the Spaniards are claiming no ill intent, saying that they make fun of everyone, and being black is no different than being fat or a woman. Wow. (see for yourself)

For his part, young Lewis seems unperturbed, and I understand why. I was shocked at the speeds, between 150 and 225 mph, these drivers push on circuitous and narrow tracks. If Tiger gets distracted by hootin’ fans, he drops a stroke - if Lewis gets distracted, he dies in a ball-of-fire. All the more reason to stay focused.

So I do not expect to hear much from the hapa-black kid, other than racing strategy and stats, as he drags the F1 racing world into the present century. And like Tiger on the greens, kicking ass on the track will do more to straighten out people and silence the butt-heads, than all the press-hound Reverend’s on the planet.

James C. Collier


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Anonymous said...

The BBC did a special on Lewis Hamilton a while ago which charted his journey to F1. The most striking thing about him was that like Tiger Woods, he had a black father who was actively involved in his life ... and when I say active, I mean ACTIVE and this was in spite of the father being divorced from the mother.

Apparently Lewis was (still is) a tiny kid for his age, had poor self-esteem and was bullied at school. Well, the dad wasn't having it and enrolled him in a karate club. As he worked his way up to black belt his confidence grew as did his ability to take care of himself at school.

Also, because the father was involved he noticed the young Lewis's interest in and dexterity with model car racing, which grew out of his watching F1 on t.v with his father. The father made him a deal that if he worked hard in school during the week, then he would take him to the track and he could spend his weekends indulging in model car racing.

All along the way, Lewis Hamilton's father has been by his side supporting and encouraging him. The documentary is just heart-warming and a real testimony to the importance of great parenting.

Both Tiger and Lewis have a certain inner strength and grace under pressure and I can only assume that some of that comes from growing up with such intense and unconditional love and support from their parents, particularly their fathers.

Anonymous said...

When I read this line in your post, "For their part, the Spaniards are claiming no ill intent, saying that they make fun of everyone, and being black is no different than being fat or a women." I exclaimed, "What?!"

How backward is this world that we live in today?!

JD said...

Thanks for the F1 insight. It is a sport that blacks could excell if given opportunity