185C_SOC_MIDTERM_bw - Joseph Wallace Soc 185C Professor...

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Joseph Wallace Soc 185C Professor Cruz 12/8/10 Two Fists To Remember The year is 1968. The United States is in social turmoil. The fight for Civil Rights is in full swing and a generation of young citizens is committed to change. Against this backdrop, African Americans’ struggle for equality became difficult, and losing their mentor, Martin Luther King Jr., and their hope for the presidency, Robert Kennedy, made times even more depressing. Hope was waning. In addition, the United States was fighting a war in Vietnam that saw enormous casualties where whites and blacks were fighting side by side. They were equal on the foreign battlefield, yet separate at home. There African American population harbored a high degree of animosity regarding the social situation their people were facing in 1968. In this emotional year, the Olympic summer games were held in Mexico City. The United States had a strong track and field team that included several African Americans. Two of America’s best were Tommie Smith and John Carlos. However, Smith and Carlos are not remembered for being sensational athletes, but for the Black Power salute they displayed on the podium when receiving their medals. This action sent shock waves throughout the world and the two athletes were suspended from the team immediately. During a time when social change in the United States was crucial, Tommie Smith and John Carlos were heroic figures for taking a stand for what they
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believed was right. Tommie Smith and John Carlos both attended San Jose State University and ran on the track team. It was at SJSU where they became politically active. They began attending meetings for a movement called the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR), founded by Harry Edwards (Murphy, 2008, 49). Smith and Carlos supported Harry Edward’s effort to put an end to the myth that sports had become a platform for interracial harmony saying, “we knew that was a bunch of nonsense because we were living it every day” (Murphy, 2008, 49). At first, there were talks of an African American boycott of the entire Olympic Games. However, when that idea never fully materialized, it was the athletes themselves who decided to exhibit some sort of protest to show the world where they stood. On October 16, 1968, Smith took the Gold Medal and Carlos the Bronze in the 200-meter Olympic final (Davis, 2008, 5A). Although Smith set a new world record, the attention of people worldwide was centered only on the demonstration that followed. As the United States’s national anthem began to play, Smith and Carlos each raised their fists, covered by a black glove. As Smith said afterward, “my raised right hand stood for the power in black America. Carlos’ raised left hand stood for the unity of black America. Together they formed an arch of unity and power.” (Davis, 2008, 5A). It was an eye opening protest against racism and the lack of civil rights given to African Americans. The response to this protest was swift and firm.
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This note was uploaded on 09/09/2011 for the course SOCIOLOGY 185 taught by Professor Staff during the Spring '11 term at UCSB.

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185C_SOC_MIDTERM_bw - Joseph Wallace Soc 185C Professor...

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