The fist fight
Re “Salute deserves no honor,” Opinion, July 29
Although we could debate ad nauseam whether the ostensibly apolitical Olympic Games were the proper platform, I am troubled and confounded by Jonah Goldberg’s description of Tommie Smith’s and John Carlos’ salutes as “self-indulgent protest.” Their bringing attention to the continued denial of civil rights -- indeed, the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- back home was the essence of self-sacrifice, unless Goldberg views the Declaration of Independence as “self-indulgent protest” as well.
Self-indulgent would have been to keep their mouths shut and parlay their Olympic victories into endorsements. Had they raised their hands today, it could have easily been radical chic, but the tense climate of 1968, and the abuse and threats they suffered after being expelled from the Olympics, made their actions anything but self-indulgent.
What about the violent extremism of lynchings in the South? What about the violent extremism of children murdered in church bombings, civil rights workers killed in Mississippi, Bull Connor’s police dogs set loose on black women and children in Alabama?
You, sir, want to measure that against the symbolism of a clenched fist? You live in an insular world, Mr. Goldberg, a world devoid of reason and memory.
Walter H. Zadrozny
Finally, an article that reflects how many of us feel about Smith’s and Carlos’ Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics. I was 20 years old then, and I’m here to tell you that its effect on me was not “benign.” I was angered beyond words and embarrassed by their in-your-face attitude toward their team, toward the United States and toward the other athletes competing in the name of the Olympic spirit of global brotherhood. I saw nothing either heroic or courageous in their actions.
I have always been remorseful about the dreadfulness of slavery, and have always been in favor of an apology to blacks for that heinous and disgusting treatment, but that gesture accomplished nothing toward fostering any kind of sympathy toward the plight of blacks in America. True heroes, competing in the name of the United States, would have honorably saluted the flag, realizing that their country had seen the error of its ways and had made it possible for them to compete in the Olympics in the first place. I continue to hope that we are now, at last, moving toward the elimination of such racism and divisiveness.