Real Olympic Heros

"Black Power Salute" Poster

” “Black Power Salute” was the moment during the 1968 Olympics, in which African-Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos exultantly gestured skyward, effectively leveling the playing field for civil rights. During the Mexico City games, Smith won the 200-meter race, setting a world record, and Carlos placed third. On the podium, they made a statement for equality by wearing symbolic attire and raising black-gloved fists during “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The backlash was immediate and vicious-Smith and Carlos were expelled from the U.S. Olympic team, and even received death threats. This powerful image endured, becoming symbolic of African-American athletes’ quest for equality.”

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20 thoughts on “Real Olympic Heros

  1. I have always thought this was an act of being un-American. Sure there were tough times but the good of the country should always come first.

  2. To Anonymous ^,
    The “good of the country” argument must’ve sounded like a joke back than to anyone fighting for civil rights. They would probably ask you what this “good” was. Saying that someone persecuted by others should turn around and fight for them and do what they want is well… slavery.

    Carson, you have the same paragraph twice.

  3. Anonymous, I would argue that this WAS for the good of the country.

    I’m holding my own personal boycott against these Olympics. Even though I know that my not watching won’t make a damned bit of difference, I can’t bring myself to feel as though I’m supporting the regime in China; I’m angry that they were given the Olympics, and I’m furious that so much of China’s activities have continued to be overlooked by so many people with the power and influence to effect positive, peaceful change.

    Here’s the thing – if we don’t use ALL our tools to fight for human rights and dignity, ESPECIALLY those tools that don’t involve soldiers and guns, then we’re just not walking the walk. I don’t give a damn about “spreading democracy,” but if we can use our political and financial means to make others’ lives better and safer, then we have a moral obligation to do so. While I’m the first to stand up and say that we should start at home, I’m also willing to give up a little bit of show and spectacle in the form of t.v. coverage and medals and the fronts of Wheaties boxes to do some good in the world, and I bet I’m not alone.

    Carson, there are a few images that give me the shivers, and this is one of them. Thank you for posting this today; I think that its message is still relevant.

  4. Amen, Mrs. Chili! You said exactly what I was thinking. Excellent post, Carson. Thank you for reminding us all. I can’t wait to show this film to my AAH class–it will definitely promote an interesting discussion.

  5. Social protest over matters of human rights is a must. I often hear people say there is no room for politics in the Olympics — what? I disagree. It is the best stage to make moral arguments.

  6. We don’t have the moral obligation to do anything for anyone. If anything, it would be anti-moral to infringe upon the government of another nation for what we believe to be “right.”

    And the monks of China that everyone is in an uproar about their civil rights being infringed upon are guilty of just as many atrocities…

    It’s a little self-righteous to think that we are the morally right ones and must fix everyone else’s problems so they’ll be more like us. That just screams ideological imperialism.

  7. The problem is that back in the 60’s, the whole “black power”, first raising thing was also connected to violence. Malcom X himself said “By any means necessary” meaning, if it comes to violence and killing to get equal rights, so be it.

    Too bad too many black groups go that route instead of the King route of peaceful demonstrations.

    Of course, from reading this blog, it appears that many believe that violence can be justified.

  8. You could completely skip this blog and come to the conclusion that many believe violence can be justified. It’s apparent that anyone who supports Vietnam, Korea, WW 1 WW 2, just to name a few, and to not even mention the current conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, that many believe that violence can be justified.

  9. lol Kristi. You are speaking of apples and oranges. A man who is pulled over and arrested because he is black and turns around and shoots the officer and a mad dictator who seeks to erradicate an entire race which causes countless other countries to invade his country to defeat him…….yeah, those are the same things.

  10. No kiddo, I’m not speaking of apples and oranges. You said violence; you didn’t say shooting police officers or mad dictators, you simply said violence. It would behoove you speak specifically if specifics are what you mean. Besides, the civil rights movement in the middle of last century wasn’t always, or even most of the time characterized by violence, it’s just that violence gets a lot more press time than peaceful sit-ins and walk outs.

  11. Carson,

    When it comes to sports having an impact on civil rights, this event certainly qualifies, but I think it pales in comparison to Jackie Robinson’s integration of the Major Leagues (my obvious bias for all things baseball-related aside). What do you think?

  12. Sure. But again, you’ve missed the point. You didn’t say anything in your first comment about any specific kind of violence. You simply said violence. My point was made based on your first comment and therefore has nothing to do with genocide or shooting. Therefore, what I said still holds true: you still could completely skip this blog and find people that are willing to use violence in certain circumstances. I’m willing to address your second point, that is, the mention of genocide and shooting, but that’s not what I was doing in the first place as you hadn’t brought up genocide and shooting yet.

  13. Jim – 1968 America was not a kind place for black folks; it took efforts like this for me to be able to get the type of education needed so that I would be allowed to teach white students. Yes, they are heros.

    LukeD – Excellent point! As important of an event as this was to many, I would not compare it to the heroic actions of Jackie Robinson. Plus, I know Robinson is one of your heros from reading your blog.

    • I agree with you Carson. These guys were truly heroes. They were willing to stand up for what they believed in even though they knew that they would later on be ridiculed. Their decision might seem small and insignificant, but because of them and many other black athletes and figures, racism has lessened and our government and society has experienced what it means to say that “all men are created equal.”

  14. I’ve always felt a strong sense of pride as an American and as a Black person when I see the photo of the two athletes giving the Black Power salute. Being patriotic doesn’t always mean, “My country, right or wrong.” It often means saying and doing things which make people uncomfortable, and making them think, and examining their innermost thoughts. Frankly, the “My country, right or wrong”, is played out.

  15. I really only have general knowledge about black power, Malcolm X, and this event during the 1968 olympics, but just from seeing this picture, Eddie, it made me feel much sorrow and compassion. Whether the motives of these athletes were skewed in wanting to exalt themselves over a nation or not, I don’t know. But, there was obviously a great element of an emotion of arrival as they were finally recognized as equals on the world playing arena, despite their color and the abuses that had been afforded them for generations. The fact that their eyes are turned downward and their heads toward their feet doesn’t look like full blown arrogance to me. Perhaps there was unrestrained pride growing in their hearts (which I would think most every athlete who was being recognized as being the best in the world would struggle with). But I see two men who knew they were in a time in the world that was pivotal and chose to recognize their place as symbolic even knowing they would be attacked and accused. Their body language seems to say to the world “Do you see who I am? I’ve been invisible for years and I could always have accomplished this, but now here I am. Do you see me?” If they knew deep down that by doing nothing they would be seen and recognized perhaps they wouldn’t have worn the gloves and raised their arms to the sky. But, considering their past and the injustices black americans had endured for generations, I believe they had much reason to think that if they didn’t do something different, noone would even say a thing.

  16. I stumbled upon your blog while searching for the different titles of that picture of the “salute” I suppose you can call it. I’m doing an essay where you have to write something/anything about a picture from history and chose that one. I was suprised you had a trailer for the film Salute! I’m an Australian, and saw that film recently and loved it. I was just curious to know why you had it there? Have you seen it yourself? Did you like what it had to say?

  17. Maree:

    I have not seen it though I want to. I have read the books and have seen a number of specials on it. As an educated black American, I would have done the same thing in 1968. With the number of blacks fighting in Vietnam, it is not much to ask citizens of your country to treat you with a sense of equality. I placed the trailer on my blog so that readers might gain a greater understanding of the social issues impacting blacks while many blacks were fighting a bad war and participating in the Olympics for a country that did not honor many of those athletes. Some were living in divided housing based on race. I would love to read your essay.

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