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June 14, 2007

African-American, Unlike Me

What does Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton have in common with former heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis? They're both famous athletes named "Lewis," of course, but they also have the distinction of being two of the most recognizable African-Britons on the planet. What, you've never heard the term African-Briton before? Perhaps you, like certain media outlets we know, need to learn how to use the term "black."

Here's ESPN's correction after Hamilton won last weekend's Canadian Grand Prix:
"On a June 11 Mike and Mike in the Morning news update on ESPN2, Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton, the first black person to win an F-1 race, was termed an African American. He is from England."

Here's how the Charlotte Observer expressed regret:
"A story in Monday's Sports section misidentified Lewis Hamilton as Formula One's first African American driver. It should have said he is the series' first black driver. Hamilton is British."

Lennox Lewis was also regularly mislabeled, usually by columnists discussing the "African American" dominance of the heavyweight division.

Of course, it's not only athletes who have to deal with this strange combination of political correctness and geographic ignorance from American writers. Brits Naomi Campbell and Thandie Newton have both been referred to as African Americans. (Newton at least has the African part down, as she was born in Zambia.)

Maybe as punishment, the journalists should be forced to listen to a lecture on the differences between African-Americans and black people by Gary Sheffield.

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- Sports
- posted on Jun 15, 07

Also, is Cameron Diaz an African-American? She was, after all, born in South Africa.

- Sports
- posted on Jun 15, 07

Great point. Not only are Americans quick to refer to all blacks as African American but they're also quick to dismiss Canadians, Mexicans, Central Americans and South Americans as un-American. I recall, for example, several media outlets referring to the gold medal winning Argentine basketball team as the first non-American team to take gold in the Olympics in 16-years. Last I checked, Argentines fall under the definition of American. Americans from the 50 United need to realize that the term American is not exclusive to them.

- Sports
- posted on Jun 15, 07

Isn't black filtered to African-American on ESPN?

- Sports
- posted on Jun 15, 07

Not to be pedantic, but he was born in Jamaica and raised in Canada.

- Sports
- posted on Jun 15, 07
David Goldenberg

Hey Canuck,

You're right. (In fact, Lennox Lewis boxed in the Olympics for Canada.) Maybe he'd like to be called "African-Jamaican-Canadian-Briton". Or maybe just Lennox.

- Sports
- posted on Jun 16, 07

Cameron Diaz is from California. Perhaps you're thinking of Charlize Theron?

- Sports
- posted on Jul 06, 12
Jonny Townsend

Sorry Canuck but Lennox Lewis was born in West Ham, East London NOT Jamaica. He then moved to Canada aged 12. He is very proud of all of his roots though (Jamaican heritage, London born & Canadian raised) & so he should be.

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