Wednesday, July 23, 2008

John Carlos and Tommie Smith enlightened me

Until recently I still couldn't really grasp the reasons behind the anger that some African Americans have against their counterparts White until I watched some snapshots, during the ESPYS awards, of what John Carlos and Tommie Smith went through in their prime years. Smith and Carlos got respectively Gold and Bronze medals for their track records at the 1968 Mexico city Olympics. As the American national anthem was playing, they raised their fists toward the sky, which was depicted as being the black power salute, but explained by them as being the denouncement of racial inequality in the US. The gesture got them kicked out of the games, they lost their jobs and nearly their family. With Death threats sent their way, they had to fight for their lives. And today 40 years later, they received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award which is given to people whose "contributions transcend sports" to quote Beth Harris from the Oxford Press.

The images accompanying the journalist's narration of the events almost created in me a flow of anger towards the injustice that African American had to endure. The last time I remember entertaining such feelings was 11 years ago I went to watch the movie "A Dry White Season" from a book of the same name by Andre Brink about the Apartheid in South Africa. It's been nearly two decades that apartheid was abolished in South Africa and four decades since the Mexico "incident", the pain and humiliation is still fresh in a lot of minds, the wound has been healed but the scar is left as a reminder of the past.

However, should we cling to that past? How would being angry at the White guy/gal advance us? How would rebellion against the "White" system (dads and uncles in jail, drugs on the streets, teen pregnancies, irresponsible moms bringing up irresponsible kids, education forgone etc...) help us achieve our true potential?
Wouldn't it be more beneficial for the previous, current and next generation to come to embrace a peaceful non rancorous approach that would not only completely heal us as a nation but also unite us as one people? 40 Years 's indeed too short, but how long should it take?
Today, John Carlos and Tommie Smith effigies stand up in San Jose State University in remembrance of that day, of those days.


Prince Hamilton said...

Acts of courage never die.

Anonymous said...

When Tommie Smith and John Carlos made that salute, I was an eleven-year-old white kid in an English school. I noticed the way the other white people around me talked about it, and it made me wonder why Tommie and John had done something that made them so angry.

It was the start of a journey.

I know they suffered for their act. I think it was worth it. Somebody had to say something, and at that moment, as they stood on the podium, for the first time the eyes of the world were on black Americans who wanted to say something for all the people who hadn't made it.

As Tommie put it: "for those individuals that were lynched, or killed that no-one said a prayer for, that were hung and tarred. It was for those thrown off the side of the boats in the middle passage."

I'm so pleased to see that San Jose State University, their alma mater, honored them in 2005 with a statue of the great event, their moment of triumph that they put to such good use.

An act of great courage that has inspired me.

Tresor De Beaute said...

Thank you 'Anonymous' for your contributions. Because of them and many others that we don't even know about, we live in a better America.

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