The Debate on NYC Marathon Winner Not Being 'American Enough'

oly_a_keflezighi_200The beauty of sports is that it’s for everyone and anyone. It has the power of unity, bringing together countries from all over the world and people of all ethnicities for a friendly competition, whether it be the Olympic games or an annual marathon. So when I read the recent New York Times article on the question of whether New York City Marathon winner, Mebrahtom Keflezighi, wasn’t “American enough,” it really brought to light the reality that we’re still far from achieving a post-racial society, despite the election of our current president.

Keflezighi is an American citizen who was born in Eritrea and immigrated to the U.S. when he was 12 years old. His background is similar to many of us who undoubtedly call ourselves Americans. Though born in a different country, what matters it that we were raised here and brought up with American values.

Yet commentary erupted on websites, such as Darren Rovell of CNBC.com who said, “Nothing against Keflezighi, but he’s like a ringer who you hire to work a couple hours at your office so that you can win the executive softball league.”

The irony is that America is a country built by immigrants, even though some still feel that they're “more American” than others just because they were born here. It's a sad disregard for the hardships many of their ancestors (most likely also immigrants) had to endure.

The NYT reader comment by Dave from Europe best sums up the absurdity of the debate:

“Meb K. is as American as "hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet" as they say . . .BTW — hot dogs were introduced in Coney Island by a German immigrant; apples originate from Asia Minor, they were brought to North America by Europeans; and Louis Chevrolet was born in Switzerland. So if you've got a problem with this guy calling himself American, get over it…”

It’s disappointing how a dynamic and universal a sport as running has to be reduced to an issue of race — especially since it undermines Keflezighi’s great achievement of completely owning those 26.2 miles.

Image via examiner.com