Climbing Everest – times change but not racism

In the year after I was born the first recorded round trip to the summit of Mt Everest occurred. In May 1953 Sherpa Tensing got Edmund Hillary to the top. It might not have been the first successful ascent, as George Mallory may well have got there first; however, he died on the mountain. As he never returned we will never truly know one way or the other if he made the summit as, unless his camera is discovered on the mountain with the film in it (if it can still be developed) giving proof, the question remains open.

One cannot diminish the effort required to get there, or the inherent dangers, but over the intervening 70 years it has become regular amongst elite mountaineers. This man (Kenton Coll) from Gloucestershire has now set a record of 16 round trips – see There is no mention of who helped him get to the top; did he do it solo?

Endemic racism

What this highlights though, both back in the 1950s and still present today, is the inherent subliminal racism of the white European mindset. My secondary school opened in Coronation year (1953) had four houses, one being Hillary House, plus Queen, School and MacIntosh (named after a local bigwig of the day). Why do I suggest it was racist, well why not Everest House, thereby honouring both of those who made it to the top? The clincher, New Zealand and Nepal were both under a form of British rule at the time, no excuse for not honouring both. On the other hand though one has to note that Hillary (a New Zealander) was ethnically white, Tensing wasn’t!

Even today that factor still applies, whether is is just the residual dregs of the elite Gentleman -v- servants ethic or the more abhorrent racist overtones, in this modern news report 16 reaching the summit is apparently only a white persons record, it specifically excludes the Nepalese (or any others) who have done it more often. Sad that 70 years on we appear to have learnt nothing about overcoming subliminal prejudice.

Even more alarming, and highly disturbing, is the parallel news report of racial abuse to the families of some non-white footballers and the racist abuse at another game. 

Racist abuse is not banter, however angry you feel about losing, it is always totally unacceptable.

NB Minor update 16th May.

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