black-power-salute

Black Power Salute

“‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’ is the motto of the Olympic Games. ‘Angrier, nastier, uglier’ better describes the scene in Mexico City last week,” wrote Time Magazine, which went onto call it “petty” and “petulant”.  Boxer George Foreman dismissed it as “That’s for college kids.” Brent Musburger called them “black-skinned storm troopers”. “The Soviet Union never has used the Olympic Games for propaganda purposes,” came a statement from Moscow.

Forty years on, the raised clenched fists of American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who won first and third places respectively in 1968 Olympic Games remain controversial. The protest photos were now inevitably labeled “black power” instead of “civil rights” Inside the arena in Mexico City the event passed quite unnoticed, but the newspaper photos reprinted in the next few days spread the debate.

Most famous of these photos was the one distributed by AP, taken by John Dominis, in which ironically, the viewer could not really make out the black socks two runners wore nor that they were shoeless — both acts meant to represent black poverty. Carlos’ beads, symbolizing black lynchings, however, were prominent. They shared right and left hands of the same pair of gloves because Carlos had forgotten his pair at the Olympic village.

Pressured by the International Olympic Committee which frown upon such displays of political statements (and which back then was ironically headed by an American named Avery Brundage who had been a Nazi sympathizer in his day), the American Team sent the pair packing home. The US cynically allowed them to retain their medals so they could count against the Russians on the final scoreboard. The silver medalist Peter Norman (Australia) who joined in the protest with a Human Rights badge on his track suit was also ostracized on his return home.

As for Smith and Carlos, they are now estranged, each claiming he was the mastermind behind the protest. Carlos went so far as to state that he let Smith win.

via iconicphotos.wordpress.com

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons standing in solidarity with Black America with raised fists at The Block, Redfern in response to the shooting of Michael Brown and the countless other Black victims of police shootings and police brutality. 

Photo by Barbara McGrady, 13th September 2014.

The 1968 Olympics Black Power Salute: African American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise their fists in a gesture of solidarity at the 1968 Olympic games. Australian Silver medalist Peter Norman wore an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge in support of their protest. Both Americans were expelled from the games as a result.

To the Lord I’m eternal, resting in peace. Please take care of all my seeds, to my unborn child.

All I wanted was for you have a better life than I did
That’s why I was out here on a twenty-four hour 365 grind
When you get to be my age you’ll understand
Just know I got love for you.

- TUPAC AMARU SHAKUR

An open letter to Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright.

Greetings,

You don’t know me, but I of course know who you both are. I am, after all, a feminist and it is hard to avoid knowing both of your names. 

Madeleine, can I call you Madeleine?, you were the first woman to become secretary of state. Even though I am not from the US I am aware of who you are and your accomplishments.

Gloria, I know you as a general figure of feminism, the unofficial spokeswoman for “feminism” in general for a long time, the founder of Ms. Magazine, alongside the somehow less well known Dorothy Pitman Hughes with whom you took an iconic photo of you and she standing side by side giving a black power salute.

I’m just a white girl in Australia who can’t even vote in the upcoming US election, but if I could I would be voting for Bernie Sanders. It is not because I don’t support women and it it not because I want boys to like me.  

But this is what you both wanted to insinuate about me, and many other women, in your enthusiastic support of Hillary Clinton’s bid for Presidency and I really take issue with that on a number of different levels, so let me begin.

1. Feminism has never been, nor should it be, an unquestioning support for other women. You would tell us there is a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women, while Hillary laughs along happy for your support. But I can barely believe what this really means. 

You don’t want women to engage with politics on a deep level, you don’t want them to examine policy, figure out how and who this policy would have an impact on and to make their decisions based off of critical analysis and wisdom.  You want them to select Hillary as a leader simply due to her gender. You want them to switch off their brains for the sake of a gender “revolution” and I cannot understand how you could possibly ask a thing like that.

2. A revolution? I don’t think that word means what you think it means. What does Hillary plan to overthrow? Or do you assume to say that simply electing a women would be a revolution in and of itself? And I have to ask … how?

When Obama was elected I celebrated in the streets of Sydney with other happy people. I was witnessing change, but not a revolution. Racism didn’t disappear when Obama was elected, in fact in many ways it brought it more to the obvious surface. I have never seen a President more disrespected openly by those who hated him. Black people continue to face extreme violence and are the victims of systemic racism which the election of Obama did not cure. 

I don’t imply that Obama didn’t matter, he does, but why are we acting like it will be a revolution for a woman to be elected. It would be the same deal. A rise in criticism, the kinds of criticism men in politics don’t face, a level of scrutiny they don’t face and declarations that she has “ruined the chances” of any other women in politics. 

I would also like to gently remind you that Bernie Sanders is Jewish and, as far as I am aware, there has never been a Jewish President or Vice President. So if your goal is simply for there to be breaking down barriers via “first X President” why only focus on Hillary?

3. You say women need to support Hillary due to us needing to support based on gender, but I wonder are you really thinking that through? Because when it comes to identity, for a lot of women there is a lot more than gender politics, gender may not even be their primary concern. 

Are Jewish women obligated to vote for Bernie? Or black women required to vote for Ben Carson? Or should we be engaging with politics on a deeper level all-together and people be encouraged to look deep into their vote, regardless of who they intend to vote for?

4. You say that we, women of today, think that the climbing of the ladder is done. I disagree, I think that maybe women of today realise that the ladder is much longer than either of you are conceiving. That are a certain subset of women are really represented in Hillary Clinton and there is likely very little she can do for any of us, let alone women who are not white, or cisgender. 

Maybe we realise there isn’t just a single ladder with a single goal at the top, maybe we realise we are climbing a tree with many branches and to be at the top means that every branch has to be able to reach upwards. 

What good is success for some women if the cost is leaving other women behind? I understand the value of systems to protect the vulnerable, I am not anti Liberal, but the feminist liberal notion that we simply need to add women and stir needs to go. The liberal feminist notion that electing extra white women and putting white women in charge is the solution needs to go. 

Power means nothing if it is used exclusively to uphold the status quo and if it isn’t used to bring corrupt systems crashing down. 

In summary, you can’t have a revolution without really having one. You can’t just put a woman at the top of a system of the patriarchy and call that success. My theoretical vote, and the votes of many women (both real and imagined) goes towards Bernie Sanders. 

Not because we hate women, not because we can’t support women, not because we think sexism is over and not because we want to impress pseudo-political  boys. But because we are thinking for ourselves, because the struggles that women have made in the past culminate now in our choices and our autonomy. If you don’t want to vote for Bernie that is ok, it’s not my business to tell you what is best for you and I would never be so condescending to think that using my influence as a somewhat known feminist to guilt and shame women into supporting the candidate of my choice is, in any way, feminist or revolutionary. 

Best regards.