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"Suddenly Americans": article draft by Roosevelt Fitzgerald




1980 (year approximate) to 1995 (year approximate)


From the Roosevelt Fitzgerald Professional Papers (MS-01082) -- Drafts for the Las Vegas Sentinel Voice file. On Black athletes at the 1988 Seoul, Korea Olympics.

Digital ID



man001014. Roosevelt Fitzgerald Professional Papers, 1890-1996. MS-01082. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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OCR transcription





As someone raised and nurtured in the country, who have done farm work and have hunted in the thick wooded areas of the south, being observant is second nature to me. When you add to that the fact that as a student of history I have been additionally trained to observe events around me, what you end up with is something close to a human sonar.
Among the many things that I observe carefully can be found newspapers. I suppose that one of the reasons I pay particular attention to newspapers is because they are sources of contemporary history. Of course, the newspapers do no report on everything that occurs. As a matter of fact, more often than not, they miss the overwhelming majority of events. What they do report, in large part,Bis influenced by the biases of the reporters and the view of the newspaper itself.
In many markets, and especially hereBin Las Vegas, whenever there is anything that has to do with black people they are described by race. The following are a few examples of the kinds of things we are likely to either read in the papers or view and hear on television and radio.
The most well known has to do with blacks as criminal suspects as per; "On the evening of July 5, the Plaza Valladora Market was robbed by two armed men. Both were black. The one was last seen wearing levis, a green pullover shirt and white sneakers. The second was described as 6'2" tall, 145 pounds, wearing a red sweat suit with black strips down the pants legs and white sneakers."
Many are upset at such descriptions. I am not. The more accurate and complete the description, the greater the likelihood of the suspect being apprehended. Merely saying; "I was robbed," won't get it done.
There are other scenarios which are not quite so easily explained not the least of which is the almost total absence of any other kinds of reporting. When reporting is done, it seems to follow a formula. Both the reporter and
the photographer contributes to it. How many times in the past year have you seen a photo accompanying a story which had black people as a focus bdyond those having to do with criminal activity? Chances are, if you've noticed, in almost every instance we are shown in a hostile environment with anger clearly etched on our faces. Think back to the news articles having to do with the Las Vegas Housing Authority. One photo shows a black female who is clearly angered at what is taking place. Another shows yet another black female with an expression almost as though she is on the verge of pouncing on Governor Bryan who is shown as relaxed, composed and in control of himself. A television spot shows a black man--tall, 200+ poundsB-with a scowl on his face and shaking his fist. In short, we are rarely shown as being reasonable, in control individuals and the public, when they see such shots, have their stereotypes of us reinforced. One the one hand, the manner in which others see us are negatively affected but, more than that, the manner in which we see ourselves is bombarded with negative images.
In just routine reporting we will see and read such things as; "the black commissioner," "the black assemblyman," "a black school teacher," "black firemen," "black policemen," "black college professors," "black consumers," and black everything else. Well, great. I don't mind that one bit. Until I come up with something better and, sure, I know, some of us use negro, colored, Afro-American and so on, that's what I want to be called. I am a black man always. I'm a black man when I sleep , when I'm awake, when I work, when I play, when I spend money, when I lose money, when I think, when I have a BM, when I'm, sick, well and dead.
But, you know what—have you noticed--over there in Seoul (pronounced soul) at the Olympics we are suddenly Americans. What is this? Why do we have to go 3000 miles or more away from home to suddenly become Americans? None of those
reporters are referring to us as black sprinters, hurdlers, boxers, ball players,
and whatnot. Over there, we're Americans and re're representing "our" country. Can you feature that? Those same Americans, in a few days or so--whenever they return to the States--will be transformed back into being black.
I've seen the disappointments in the faces and the comments that black olympians have shown and expressed before in earlier Olympic years. They go off somewhere where they're treated like real people for a few weeks or so and everybody treats them like they've always dreamed of being treated and they get hooked to the illusion. They think, for the time that it lasts, that it will last forever. It didn't, it doesn't and it won't.
Upon their return to Georgia, New York, New Jersey, Mississippi, Texas, California, Nevada, Ohio or wherever the heck they're from, they will be brought back with a sudden suddeness to reality and just as quickly as they would have become suddenly Americans in Seoul in a place called Korea, they'll discover in a place called Yonkers, New York that there are a lot of people who will be wishing that they had remained in Seoul and for a moment they will also wish they had until they remember, if they ever knew or they discover if they did not know before, that when they read that document that says; "We The People," that the people it is talking about includes them too whether there are a lot of other people in this country who like it or not.