Sunday, July 20, 2008
SUMMER OLYMPICS 2008 vs SUMMER OLYMPICS 1968: Tommie Smith and John Carlos
While the summer Olympics approach and the Presidential election gets nearer, the topic of race relations in America is in the forefront of all our minds. Barack Obama shadows much of what in America, has been called a strained racial divide and a fight for civil rights for many. China has a terrible human rights record and the theme of the Olympic games and the election turn all of our minds to progress made and progress needed.
1968, the year after I was born, was still a time of civil unrest and chaos in America. The Vietnam war was still raging and the Tet offensive and was in full force. Students were protesting on college campuses both the war and civil rights issues. Robert Kennedy announced his candidacy for President and President Johnson announces that he will not seek re-election. On April 4th, 1968 a shot rang out and Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated standing on the balcony of a Memphis motel by James Earl Ray. After announcing his victory in California, Robert Kennedy is assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan in June of 1968. For 6 days in August during the Democratic National convention, war protesters and police clash in Chicago. In mid-September 1968, controversy erupts over the appointment of John Hatchett as head of the black student center at NYU. Soon after taking his post, it is discovered that Hatchett wrote an article in Dec. 1967 which accused the NYC public school system of being dominated by "anti-black Jews and Black Anglo-Saxons."
The same year during the summer Olympics in Mexico, two athletes from San Jose State University, Tommie Smith and John Carlos won the gold and bronze medals for the 200 meter race. Instead of placing their hands over their hearts when the American flag was raised and the anthem was playing, they closed their eyes, bowed their heads and raised their fists in protest of the ongoing conflict for blacks in America. The athletes were met with much anger and outrage. They were immediately suspended and sent back home to the states. Some commended them for their bravery, others condemned them for politicizing a non-political event. Either way, the message was clear. America's days of racial inequality were being challenged by courageous acts of non-violent protest. Tommie Smith and John Carlos, soldiers of bravery in a country starving for redemption and equality.
Perhaps the Chinese will follow suit as it is a country ill with human rights violations. We shall see. The Olympic games are on their way and I think Americans can be proud of the progress we have made as a nation. More is needed. But I think for the most part strides have been made. God Bless America and let the games begin! Salute the Movie