Here, in Canada, we pride ourselves on the acceptance of others. Heck, to many, it’s our identity as a nation.
But do we embrace these other people, or just accept and tolerate them? For that matter, do black athletes get the same publicity and admiration their white counterparts do?
Has anyone ever heard of Ferguson Jenkins? He was born in Catham, Ontario, in 1943, and pitched 18 seasons in the majors—a pretty good accomplishment for a Canadian.
But he didn’t just pitch at the major league level, he won there as well. His career record was 284-226, with a 3.34 ERA and more than 3000 strikeouts. That’s more wins than Bob Feller, more strikeouts than Cy Young, and a better ERA than Mike Mussina.
In 1991, Jenkins, who happens to be black, was the first and only Canadian ever elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame. I first heard about Jenkins not through a magazine, not through a television set, not through a newspaper, but through a math textbook.
Everyone knows who Justin Morneau, Russell Martin, and Jeff Francis (all white players and fellow Canadians) are, just because they get that much more attention from the media.
For all they have done thus far in their big-league careers, these players have not received baseball’s greatest honour. Jenkins has, however, been bestowed with that honor, yet as a black man from Canada, he has received very little attention from the media.
And what about Lennox Lewis?
Even though he wasn’t technically born in Canada, he still represented the country countless times on the international stage, including the Olympics. He won a boxing gold medal in the 1988 Olympics, was the world heavyweight champion, and successfully defended his title against many great fighters, including Mike Tyson.
When he retired from professional boxing, Lewis boasted a record of 41-2-1, with 32 K.O.’s. Do we ever hear of him in the media, though? No.
Israel Idonije? Does that name ring a bell? Well, all he’s done is start a Super Bowl as a mainstay on the Bears' defense. Yet, do we ever hear of him in the newspapers or on the sports TV shows?
We, as Canadians, may think we accept people with different skin colours (which we do), but that’s only half of it.
We have to learn to embrace these people, regardless of what skin tone they have. What sort of identity is that for a country?