It was beautiful, inspiring — Tommie Smith’s and John Carlos’ raised fist salute in Estadio Olimpico Universitario in Mexico City in 1968. They had run the race of their lives at the Olympics, Tommie coming in first and Carlos running third, in the 200-meter dash. The men knew that they stood to lose a lot of mammon. In America, the richest country on the planet, they stood to make millions off endorsements. Track and field was an amateur sport at the time, but a retired track star was set for life, if they played their cards right.
But the men were champions for human dignity. Mammon was not their God. They would have no greater platform than this, and they took it. Every man of colour knew about the terrible Apartheid in South Africa at the time. Muhammad Ali had been stripped of his heavyweight title, in 1967, because he refused to join the American army and go fight a war to, as the Americans declared, stop North Vietnamese communists from overrunning South Vietnam. Back home, in the US, racist whites were doing all in their power to turn back black gains with the ballot and education. Tommie Smith and John Carlos knew about these injustices.
The runner who placed second in that race, Peter Norman, a white Australian, was aware of the protest by Smith and Carlos, and as a lover of human beings himself, he had agreed to join them. Norman wore a badge on his shirt supporting the Olympic Project for Human Rights. Norman was no stranger to human rights atrocities. White Englishmen did to the Aborigines in that part of the world what white Spaniards and Portuguese did to Mayans and other Native Americans over here.
The Europeans from the temperate lands brought their great guns to fight native people of the tropical lands but far more devastating to native life were the diseases they brought to the tropics. A feature of European life, a development, was city life. It was an economic boon. It was also a hot bed of disease. Crowding people into tight spaces is not the healthiest of ideas. And medieval Europe was an unsanitary disaster. One disease, the bubonic plague, had wiped out over a hundred million people in the 1300’s. They had developed a level of immunity to some of their diseases, notably the measles and the influenza. These diseases they carried to the Americas and Oceania, and these diseases would help deliver these vast territories to their control.
Sometime after the Olympics, Smith would write that their salute was not about black power, it was about human rights. It is not impossible that he and Carlos would not have suffered so much if the power structure had known that their salute was about human rights, not black power. Peter Norman did not make any salute, but after that race his country did not want him anymore either. They rocked the boat and they paid the second heaviest price: major economic loss.
The American football player, Colin Kaepernick, had chosen to kneel whenever his country’s national anthem was played before games. He has lost his place in football since. Most everyone who knows a little football knows that he is still a pretty good player. Just a few years ago he almost led his team to the biggest prize in American football.
Colin Kaepernick, the son of a white woman and a Black American man, was given up for adoption when he was a young child. His adoptive parents, Teresa and Rick Kaepernick, have stepped forward to explain what their son is really about:
“Colin has chosen to kneel for the national anthem as a protest to the continuing racial inequality in this country. He has explained his reasons for this in multiple interviews, yet it seems some people still do not understand his point. For whatever reason, there are some who want to view this as an anti-military protest or an un-American stance. These views could not be further from the truth, but we know that people will believe what they wish to believe.”
People who love people will agree with Kaepernick’s stand. It’s a noble one. It is terrible to hear these stories coming out of America, about police officers and other people, shooting people of colour for next to no reason at all. We are aware of a thing in that country which is called, profiling. A young man with a saggy pants or unkempt hair will draw unfavourable attention to himself. That’s just how life is. But when a person draws negative attention because of the colour of their skin, that isn’t right. There will always be profiling, but people in authority positions have to be careful that they don’t overdo.
The person with athletic fame or musical fame has a great platform. Many of them don’t read enough books, so they don’t know much, and most of them are mostly about mammon. That mammon, it really is God on earth, especially in the white man’s world. Remember what the devil offered to Jesus when he had just begun his ministry? And what did Jesus say: “Get thee behind me, Satan!” Televangelist Robby Zacharias said he was stunned at Bible school when he learned that many of the students in Bible study were there because they thought Jesus was…a good racket. Fu real.
When a star chooses to sneeze on mammon, for a good cause, it is a worthy thing. Kaepernick must be lauded for choosing people over fat pay checks. And they can be really fat in that country. That’s because they practice an inhumane system, called capitalism. In that system, ten percent of the people live like royalty, twenty percent live comfortable lives, forty percent dream of living like royalty, and thirty percent live abysmally.
In “coloured” countries where they practice that system, it works terribly. In “white” countries where they practice that system, it works out because they have a lot of other people’s wealth at their disposal. That’s because they exploit, and have exploited. Just ask how much of coloured peoples’ wealth is stashed in Switzerland.
Kaepernick is in the top one percent in his field. He is/was royalty. He made his choice and everything about his objective is good. America really needs to be brought to face some of its ugly truths. Bully for the conscientious protest.
However, there are two things not too right about where he made his stand. One should not protest during the playing of one’s national anthem. Maybe this is allowed in America. They are a different country from us in many ways, so we’ll keep this as a Belize beef. A country is very much like a house. A child can dissent but a child should not be disrespectful to their parents.
Belize is too small a country to tolerate this form of disrespect. One of the reasons the Crimes Commission was so keen on a National Cadet Corp for our youth is because our elders had seen, experienced the tremendous discipline instilled in youth who go through military training. Another mechanism to instil essential discipline in youth is well-run amateur sport. In-well run amateur sport your conduct is far more important than your skill. How wonderful it is when discipline and skill merge. A youth must learn to be respectful. There, in a Cadet Corp, or a well-run sports program, you are going to learn respect.
The second problem with the where of Kaepernick’s stand, and this goes for everywhere, is the fact that he was disrespecting his employer. You just don’t bring your “issues” to your workplace. We understand that BUSINESS is about FOOD. And FOOD is the most important need of human beings. It is not an employee’s place to think, oh, my employer can afford it. If the employer has any bread to give, they are the ones to decide that.
Maybe Kaepernick’s bosses would have been more tolerant if he had staged his protests when he is in civilian clothes. Maybe he would have done better if he had asked his fans to protest when they came to the game. Paying customers can get away with a lot of things.
But maybe Kaepernick had decided that he didn’t want their paycheck anymore. That is exactly what he said when he decided to put on his boss’s uniform—an du weh ih want.