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


Z said...

I was a bit older than you when that happened..I'm sure I saw it AS it happened, that fist in the air.
We were stunned and saddened that they politicized sports. People were angry at them so I felt I should be, too!
Looking at it now I feel 'GOOD FOR THEM!'. I was too young then to put together what had happened that year (Dr MLK Jr having been killed, etc.)with their doing this..just somehow escaped me.
Now? I feel they should not have been condemned. I think everyone should have raised their fist in the air against racism, against acts of violence.
Thanks, Nikki...this changed my heart, I swear to God. huh.
I want to HUG those guys now. Look at their faces; they don't hate, they grieve and they beseech us to "Listen to us, we did these amazing feats of sports for America...things have to change, for US and for America." yup. Thank God they have, quite a bit, I think.

WomanHonorThyself said...

hey Nikki:)... 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...I dont have much faith in their changing..all the Chinese live in my neighborhood in NYC

namaste said...

nik, this looks like something i'd like to see. thanks for posting such a historic moment.



namaste said...

i'm such a dope. i thought the text and video were two separate posts. wow, nikki what a great post her. thanks for this explanation of events. of course i knew about mlk and kennedy, but i had no idea about the other events of 1968. great post. again.



Karen said...

Terrific post, Nikki. Like Z, who is in my age area, I, too remember the fist in the air as it happened on tv. It was stunning at the time. My parents were disgusted. I was younger so I thought it might be cool, but no. I knew it wasn't.

Donald Douglas said...

Yes, we can be proud ... never doubt it!

Khaki Elephant said...

Well done, Nikki. Well done.

Nikki said...

Thanks everyone for the kudos! It is much appreciated! Especially coming from such great are the best! ALL OF YOU! :)N

Sandi said...

Great post. Here's what always amazes me. One of the greatest things about our country is that people have the right to say and believe whatever they feel in their hearts. But as soon as someone actually does that - if it doesn't agree with the rest of the herd - they're ostracized. What we fight for, what we're the most proud of, what makes our country the best, is so often forgotten. Kudos to people who have a strong belief and stick with it. And kudos to you for the post.

Nikki said...

Sandi, it is true...many consequences to free speech. But I do think eventually cooler heads prevail in the common goal of all of us! :)N

Incognito said...

Interestingly enough, on Huffpo, there is an article about how the Chinese have sent out memos asking Beijing bars to bar Blacks and Mongolians from those establishments. Not sure if this is true, but...Sigh.