Sunday, 8 January 2012
Mexico City Olympics
In 1968 Tommie Smith won the gold medal in the 200m and his running mate, John Carlos, took the bronze. Both men mounted the medals podium wearing black socks and holding their Puma running shoes in their hands (although the race was run wearing Adidas). Tommie Smith wore a black leather glove on his right hand to represent Black Power in America and John donned a black glove on his left to represent Unity in Black America. The black socks were a statement of Black Poverty in America. Upon the introduction of the US National Anthem both men raised their leather-clad hands in the “Black Power” salute. This iconic moment was witnessed by tens of millions all over the world including me. I was 8 years old, this all meant nothing to me until I heard “Dirty Niggers”. This was my first experience of this vile word; expressed with such venom and hate by a bitter old man, who frightened me as he continued to spew out further racist abuse and profanity. I disliked this man straight away and although I did not understand what these black men had done, I knew they had done something they shouldn’t have and I liked them, especially Tommie Smith and his shiny gold medal. Through my teens I learnt the meaning of what these courageous men had done and although Black Power, the Panthers and America meant nothing and had no relevance to me I related to their conviction to stand up for what they believed at great personal sacrifice. These men were true men and I aspired to be a man just like them.