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Who knows of Tommie Smith and John Carlos?

unless you were living and watching the 1968 summer olympics, you probably have no idea who either of these men are. for me, watching them on the medal stand –for the 200 meter dash, with black gloved hands raised in the black power salute– was a true learning experience. i realized i lived in a seriously and dangerously racist society. after their imbroglio of the olympics, the story of tommie smith and john carlos was rarely mentioned. (to learn more about these two brave men, read this terrific article from GOOD magazine.)

[below, the medal stand for the men’s 200 meter dash. l2r: peter norman (australia) silver medalist, tommie smith (usa) gold medalist, john carlos (usa) bronze medalist.]

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it’s 2012 now, and one would hope racism would have ebbed by now; unfortunately it’s resurging and rearing its ugly head even more dangerously. with the presidential election coming up, i am seeing and hearing (i live near atlanta, ga) things that make me want to sit in a corner and just CRY. people i know are saying very racist and scary things on facebook. they don’t say them out loud or in conversation as there is an unwritten rule in the south: no one talks about religion or politics. it’s considered “impolite.” on facebook or unsaid, the racist undercurrent is like tinnitus: you can still hear the shrill sound that doesn’t end.

in 2008 i had such optimism about the future. i watched the inauguration of President Obama and the parade following, sobbing through hours of televised coverage. i was crying because i was so happy that FINALLY something happened in the united states with which i could connect, of which i could be proud. the country had elected a black president, and he and his family were smart, beautiful and likable. hope.

my biggest question about racism (then & now) is WHY?? why is racism still so prevalent? why is a black president so threatening to so many people? why do people think the color of one’s skin is equal to one’s worth? we should have learned by now. we should have left this nasty business behind long ago. for those still clinging to this outrageousness, i ask you to take a good look in the mirror and ask yourself WTF? give yourself an opportunity to stop hating. please stop hating.

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