Thursday, November 5, 2009

Eritrean Americans are Americans too.

Eritrean Americans are Americans Too.

After Native Americans and the real indigenous people were unfairly shoved aside in the beginning of what we now know as America, it was immigrants that founded the modern day United States of America. The America that prides itself as the most strong and advanced nation on earth. As part of a melting pot from all continents throughout the world, members of immigrant families have contributed their share in every sector of American society. They are from Europe Africa, Asia, South America, Oceania, and Latin America. The America founded by immigrants has also done its fair share of terrible things in order to protect its selfish interests. You see, it was in the 1950’s when the very same nation that New York City marathon Champion runner Meb Keflezghi waived his flag for, the United States of America, committed a major crime against the Eritrean people by forcefully annexing it to Ethiopia. The secretary of state at that time John Foster Dulles and the State department did not foresee that one day a young Eritrean born kid would represent the United States in the Olympics or that same person would be the first American to win the New York City Marathon. Let's go back to memory lane & recite the a quote from secretary Dulles in 1952,
 From the point of view of justice, the opinions of the Eritrean people must receive consideration. Nevertheless, the strategic interests of the United States in the Red Sea Basin and considerations of security and world peace make it necessary that the country [Eritrea] be linked with our ally, Ethiopia.”
Only if more Americans knew what Eritreans had to endure during these troubled times, they would appreciate their lives more. So how did Eritreans respond back? They did not dwell on the negative but decided that they needed to do something in order to get their dignity back. They rose up and stood up to claim what was theirs. The thirty-year struggle against occupation and rampant racism molded them into a strong, hard working people, united amongst nine ethnic groups and two major religions. In the process which took more than four decades, Eritreans were also being forced to leave their homes in large numbers and join the mass migration to the Middle East, Europe and the United States from the African continent  like other immigrants before them.
Meb Keflezghi who made his way with his large family to southern California is a by product of this migration and like lots of Americans who came here to seek a better life, he went to high school in San Diego, college at UCLA where he won four NCAA titles and won a silver at the 2004 Olympics in Athens for the United States. He was well educated by the system that provided him refuge and taught him to be a good citizen. He was trained and built ready made to run in the toughest conditions right here in the USA. He took on the challenge with sheer determination, hard work and ethics. I can guarantee you that there are millions of other immigrants who had the same opportunity as he did but he happened to shine and he became a success story as a result of hardwork. His strong discipline as an individual and an excellent family value which is a huge part of the Eritrean culture & add to that some great coaching at UCLA to go along with it, Meb proved that anyone, can become the best at anything they set out to do.

                                            The writer of this blog with Eritrean American NYC Champion in 2006.
As an Eritrean American myself who has made my home here for more than 25 years, I am outraged by certain media coverage and responses about the Eritrean American runner who also happens to be a friend. Eritrean American immigrants are among the hard working population of America’s melting pot. They are well educated, they value respect for all human beings no matter where they come from, they are kind, and self reliant, all threats that they brought with them to their adopted homeland of the United States many years ago. Like millions of other immigrant Americans who have paid their dues, Eritrean Americans have been a great Diaspora that have been able to intermix their great culture and assimilate it to the lifestyle of America. They are law-abiding citizens for the most part, they are active in their communities. They in the true sense should be embraced by America as they are a classic example of the term "It takes a village to raise a child". They also happen to love sports and the writer of this blog can strongly vouch for that. Yo can even ask Meb Keflezghi.  
CNBC sports writer Darren Rovell probably wishes he did not write a racist article about the Eritrean-American champion athlete of the NY city marathon who has been demeaned and disrespected at the very least.  Rovell who claims to have run the NYC marathon failed to do his research before he pulled the trigger. CNBC's editorial managers also failed. Could it be by coincidence or purposely done to create controversy? It begs the question as to why racism is still so rampant in today’s America. As an Eritrean-American sports buff I would like to make a point and also tell the story of a great American athlete and of a racist America which we must always remind people about in order to eradicate this ugly disease.  It is the story of probably the best US athlete of the 20th Century a sportsman of melting-pot heritage, child of part Native American, Irish and French parents. His name was Jim Thorpe and he was in the 1950’s named the best American athlete by sports writers for the first half of the 20th Century. Thorpe was a multi athlete who excelled at everything he did. He won the Olympic gold in pentathlon and decathlon, and starred in football, baseball and basketball at the highest level of competition. By 1950, when diagnosed with cancer, and on March 28, 1953, Jim Thorpe died of complications from a heart attack. Only after his death was the racism and unfairness publicly recognized with which Jim Thorpe was treated. His sacrifice and ill treatment was never told while he was alive. He did not have a medium to speak up. Thank god to new media and technology articles like Rovell's and the many other racist statements that were written about Meb have been repulsed. My point in bringing Jim Thorpe into this story is because people like him are those who paved the way for other Americans to succeed and be the best they can be. The Thorpes and Jackie Robinsons and the thousands of immigrant and minority athletes are those who opened doors for some of the best athletes America has produced including Meb Keflezghi. They also opened the doors to other important positions for immigrants and children of immigrants. Look no further than the top executive of the United States of America. Meb can be put in the same category as he stands today as the top American runner. There is no doubt that he will even go down as the greatest long distance runner in American history when he is done. Racist columnists and sports writers must stop their arrogance and respect all athletes no matter what as long as they are RIGHTFULLY & LEGALY AMERICANS. Many years after the battle for civil rights and many years after so many people paid dearly we continue to witness stains of the dirty & ugly piece of Americana. Darren has apologized as a result of responses from outraged citizens of America from all walks of life. They were highly offended by what he said. He was forced to respond as follows,
All I was saying was that we should celebrate an American marathon champion who has completely been brought up through the American system. This is where, I must admit, my critics made their best point. It turns out, Keflezighi moved to the United States in time to develop at every level in America. So Meb is in fact an American trained athlete and an American citizen and he should be celebrated as the American winner of the NYC Marathon. That makes a difference and makes him different from the "ringer" I accused him of being. Meb didn't deserve that comparison and I apologize for that.
While I commend him for his apology, as a sports writer he should have done his homework. It would have been much easier to research rather than assume that another African with a weired name has just won the NYC Marathon for America. Let us not forget that, as Americans the stories that have shaped this nation into a superpower is not it’s arrogance, but it’s amazing stories of immigrants. Immigrant Americans built this nation and they will break it if not respected and treated with dignity and respect. So that we are aware, like Meb Keflezghi many immigrant Americans have played a big role in the well being of this nation and continue to do so today.

                                          The writer of the blog with Martina Navratilova an Immigrant American.
Just to name a few, Henry Kissinger, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Madeline Albright, Albert Einstein, Martina Navratilova whom I have had the pleasure of meeting. If we went further and even spoke about children of immigrants then I would not have enough space on this blog. So the point I am making, every American should celebrate Meb's victory as it is for America by an American runner who happens to be born in Eritrea.
FYI: Eritreans like other immigrants play major roles and contribute in building grass roots movements in many sports including football, running, Soccer, college woman’s and men’s basketball and more. Don’t be surprised if the next Eritrean American is an NBA or NFL star or one that will represent the US in an Olympic event. It’s bound to happen sooner than later. Sports writers and every American should embrace them and remember that it is the spirit of competition that binds humans together rather than where they came from. I want to say that I am an advocate of Eritrean American sports and will continue to enlighten people about their great achievements.
The writer of this blog is an Eritrean American sports journalist who has covered major events, including the US national soccer team, the NBA, NFL and major college sports as well as other American sports.
Mike Seium
Eri-international sports blog.



     

4 comments:

scott said...

Good article. Its sad that we have all this controversy. He is a good runner, with an African name who is an American citizen. I hope that he is not bothered by this. Too bad more people are unaware of the Eritreans struggle for independence. I had a friend in High school who was from Asmara, he told me that it took him several years to leave the country (Ethiopia) and that he came to the US as a refugee with very little. He was in High school even though he was almost 30. I don't know, but hope that he too is an American citizen. God bless.

scott said...

Good article. Its sad that we have all this controversy. He is a good runner, with an African name who is an American citizen. I hope that he is not bothered by this. Too bad more people are unaware of the Eritreans struggle for independence. I had a friend in High school who was from Asmara, he told me that it took him several years to leave the country (Ethiopia) and that he came to the US as a refugee with very little. He was in High school even though he was almost 30. I don't know, but hope that he too is an American citizen. God bless.

scott said...

Good article. Its sad that we have all this controversy. He is a good runner, with an African name who is an American citizen. I hope that he is not bothered by this. Too bad more people are unaware of the Eritreans struggle for independence. I had a friend in High school who was from Asmara, he told me that it took him several years to leave the country (Ethiopia) and that he came to the US as a refugee with very little. He was in High school even though he was almost 30. I don't know, but hope that he too is an American citizen. God bless.

Eri-International Sports Comments said...

Thanks Scott. I hope people like you can help educate others about the young nation of Eritrea while also having a respectable view of all immigrant Americans. America has been taking a beating because of the few and It does not deserve it. It is a great nation that must seek to change the way others view it. I see a lot of similar traits between the U.S and Eritrea despite the many policy making differences.