At this year’s ESPY Awards, ESPN decided to award the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage to Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the two men pictured above that raised the black power fist at the 1968 Olympic Games. While that might seem like a long overdue acknowledgement and attempt to repair the historical record, Jonah Goldberg ferrets out the truth behind this sportslamoliberafascist conspiracy:
Is it even worth trying to remind people today that the black-power salute was, for those who brandished it seriously, a symbol of violence – rhetorical, political and literal – against the United States? It was the high sign for a racist militia, the Black Panthers, which orchestrated the murder of innocents and allied itself with America’s enemies. In today’s lingo, you might even say black power was “divisive.”
Leaving aside the question of what exactly “rhetorical” violence is, I appreciate Goldberg’s outrage at the preposterous notion that black Americans might have had legitimate reasons to harbor anger at the United States in 1968. I mean, can someone say “Culture of Victimhood”! Like that ungrateful whiner Toussaint L’Ouverture, who had the termerity to lash out against France. This, even after his French master had freed him from bondage and given him an education. I mean, the French government even went as far as to declare full equality for all Haitians in 1792, and L’Ouverture repaid their ongoing paternal magnanimity by expelling the French colonial assistance-providing guys some five years later.
Like L’Ouverture, Smith and Carlos simply failed to grasp just how much the savage, murderous, dehumanizing brutality that their people had been enduring for centuries was starting to get a little bit better. Whatever happened to being grateful for the little things?
Another important distinction is that this was 1968, not 1938. By the end of the 1960s, America had seen two decades of steady – if too slow – racial progress. The black-power vision of an irredeemably “racist Amerikkka” was all but blind to the desegregation of the military, the accomplishments of Owens and Robinson and the civil-rights acts of 1957, 1960, 1964 and even 1968. One hopes ESPN disagrees with those views as well.
Exactly! Their protest might have made a smidgen of sense in 1938 (but the upraised fist is just unnecessarily frightening symbolism regardless). Back then, their actions would have led to a prompt death via a mob of whites feeling personally wronged, rather than just an avalanche of death threats, public ostracization and an intense backlash (media outlets like the Associated Press and sports journalists like Brent Musberger compared Carlos and Smith to Nazis, and Carlos’ first wife committed suicide amidst the turmoil).
And really, with all that progress going on, what was there to complain about? Why the grudge against America in that era of hope and reconciliation? Some facts: In 1968, no black civil rights leaders were being killed. There were no riots, no police brutality with impunity, no pervasive discrimination, no ongoing segregation, no poverty legacy – just lots of people being blind to color like Jonah. The last recorded lynching occurred in 1968 for heavan’s sake, and instead of a thumbs up, or a thanks America, we get this disrespectful, dare I say “presumptuous,” call for the empowerment of a long disempowered minority!
Goldberg’s refreshing and balanced take on this proud era in American history (which ESPN has decided to sully by recognizing these “self-indulgent” negro revolutionaries) reminds us all, yet again, how foolish African Americans are to be voting for Democrats, and how the Republicans are the true champions of African American causes. The Party of Civil Rights if you will.
Bonus Goldberg Fucktardity:
But even a more benign view of the salute shouldn’t obscure the intense contradictions of ESPN’s decision to honor Carlos and Smith. Both men were members of the Olympic Project for Human Rights, which wanted a complete black boycott of the ’68 Olympics. The group considered an entire generation of heroic black athletes, including Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson, to be Uncle Toms.
Yes, and Carlos and Smith were so committed to the cause of said boycott that they didn’t even sit out the games themselves. In that spirit, henceforth I shall be joining a group dedicated to convincing my fellow New Yorkers to boycott all establishments that serve alcoholic beverages for their refusal to serve me lagavulin for $5 a pint. My dedication to the cause shall be manifested in my insistence on extending my pinkie finger every time I imbibe my beverage. That’s roughly the same as a boycott from what I hear.