Never forget what happened 45 years ago today. Republished with permission from the TSF crew. – CA
John Carlos (Photo provided)
How can you ask someone to live in the world and not have something to say about injustice?” – John Carlos
No one should pay the price for standing up for their dignity. Yet that is what happened to American track and field star John Carlos when he raised his fist in the air with his teammate Tommie Smith at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.
On October 16, 1968, Smith won the 200 meters in a world-record time of 19.83 seconds. Australia’s Peter Norman came in second with a time of 20.06 and Carlos placed third place with a time of 20.10.
The three athletes went to the medal stand. Smith and Carlos were there to receive their medals, show their dignity, and raise awareness of the oppression that exists in America.
Smith and Carlos received their medals shoeless. They wore black socks which symbolized black poverty Smith wore a black scarf around his neck to represent black pride. Carlos had his tracksuit top unzipped to show solidarity with American blue collar workers and wore beads for “the individuals that were lynched or killed, that no-one said a prayer for, and those that were hung and tarred.” (More Than a Game, Jan Stradling)
Smith, Carlos, and Norman wore Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) badges. OPHR founder Harry Edwards urged black athletes to boycott the games and the actions of Smith and Carlos were inspired by Edwards’ arguments.
Smith and Carlos delivered the salute with heads bowed during the national anthem as Norman looked on. The gesture became front page news around the world. They should have been celebrated for their actions. Instead, they were booed and shunned and were asked to leave Mexico City. All of them arrived home as outcasts.
Even today, Smith and Carlos (and Peter Norman) do not get the respect they deserve. They still fight the myths surrounding their actions and it’s time we unlearn them. Carlos sets the record straight with sportswriter Dave Zirin in his book, “The John Carlos Story.”
I caught up with Mr. Carlos and we discussed all sorts of things: the Olympic Project for Human Rights, Dr. Martin Luther King, track and field, swimming, and the positive impact of their actions.
Read more »