I've been living in this country for the vast majority of my 24 years, so recent events in the news do not surprise me. I live on the emotional spectrum which at different times locates me at outright blood boiling angry, or more commonly, at merely disappointed and sadly resigned to the institutional racism and police militarization that are absolutely the American status quo.
I am disappointed by the lack of conversation regarding the recent high profile cases of police brutality. Even as I write this, news of my hometown protestors being sprayed with tear gas on Telegraph Avenue is going viral. In Grants Pass, where I currently live, nobody has brought up the current protests, grand juries, or situation in conversation. Not once. I am also disappointed by the lack of interest emanating from the running community. Granted, I am still looking for an in-person running community. Nevertheless, the delicate "do not touch anything that could be considered controversial" attitude of major running sites makes me want to throw-up. Let's Run's message board thread entitled "Is hands up don't shoot the biggest lie of our time?" might give us some idea of where some of the very white long distance running community stands. Disappointing.
This Saturday I momentarily became a spectator (or at least as close to one as you can be in the untelevised and under-reported world of MUT running) as I followed tweets from Marin County, CA. I found twitter useful?!?! What? Moving on. The North Face 50 Mile Endurance Challenge Championship was probably the most competitive ultra marathon ever held on US soil (for men). Virtually all of the biggest names in the sport were there, and they raced their guts out from 5am for 6+ hours through the mud. It was great to follow such a competitive race, and yet it wasn't.
And it is for this very reason dear Running Mafia that I think that we should remember Tommie Smith and John Carlos and their times.
I am not so naive to think that police murder and oppression are new phenomena. The heavy hand of government paramilitary forces in both the US and Mexico were severe in 1968. Even as we grieve for the 43 students assassinated with the participation of Guerrero State's political elite in 2014, we should remember the Tlatelolco massacre of 30 to 300 students and civilians by military and police forces on a night 10 days before the Summer Olympics. A US Latin American Political Analyst confirmed the death of 44 individuals. The President wanted to present a clean image of the country to the outside world and spent aggressively, much like this year's FIFA World Cup in Brasil.
And in the US, even as we grieve the deaths of Michael Brown, Marlon Brown, Eric Garner and many many more, we should remember the past as well. 1968 was a year of great significance in the United States for the black community. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Two days later a shoot-out between Oakland Police and The Black Panther Party resulted in the death of Bobby Hutton. The Vietnam War was raging on and student political opposition shut down Columbia University in New York City. And that was just April.
It is within this climate that Tommie Smith and John Carlos made their black power salute during the awards ceremony after having claimed 1st and 3rd in the 200 meter dash in The Mexico City 1968 Summer Olympics. The International Olympic Committee punished them harshly for their actions, leaving them expelled from the US track team and Olympic Village. Perhaps fittingly, they both played for a period in the NFL, where five athletes who refuse to "shut up and play" continue to reside today.