On October 17, 1968, Black athletes make a silent protest before a world audience.
Two Black American athletes made history at the Mexico Olympics by staging a silent protest against racial discrimination. Tommie Smith and John Carlos, gold and bronze medallists in the 200m, stood with their heads bowed and a black-gloved hand raised as the American National Anthem played during the victory ceremony. The pair both wore black socks and no shoes and Smith wore a black scarf around his neck. They were demonstrating against continuing racial discrimination of Black people in the United States. As they left the podium at the end of the ceremony they were booed by many in the crowd.
‘Black America will understand
At a press conference after the event Tommie Smith, who holds seven world records, said: “If I win I am an American, not a Black American. But if I did something bad then they would say ‘a Negro’. We are Black and we are proud of being being Back.
“Black America will understand what we did tonight.” Smith said he had raised his right fist to represent Black power in America, while
Carlos raised his left fist to represent black unity. Together they formed an arch of unity and power. He said the black scarf represented black pride and the black socks with no shoes stood for lack poverty in racist America. Within a couple of hours the actions of the two Americans were being condemned by the International Olympic Committee. A spokesperson for the organization said it was “a deliberate and violent breach of the fundamental principles of the Olympic spirit.
Smith said: “It is very discouraging to be on a team with White athletes. On the track you are Tommie Smith, the fastest man in the world, but once you are in the dressing rooms you are nothing more than a dirty Negro.”