Thursday, 21 October 2010

The raised fist

During the Olympic games 1968 in Mexico City Tommie Smith  won the 200 meter race and broke the world record with a time of 19.83 seconds. The image above is classic and powerful; it is from the medal ceremony and also features John Carlos (USA) to the right and Peter Norman (Australia) to the left. The raised fist with a black glove and Olympic Project for Human Rights badges are symbols of a fight against racism both in sports and most importantly in society in general. The three athletes were booed by the crowd and more or less explicitly expelled from their national team. The so-called Black power salute is a symbol for the US black power movement, an organisation against racial segregation and in some ways pro-socialism. The movement is diverse and some branches advocate black supremacy and separatism. Thus it is not uncontroversial, even though the origin is important.

Interesting is the various meaning of the raised fist symbol, it is and has been used by groups for black power, white power, socialism and various nationalist groups, to mention a few.  It is a symbol of willingness to fight, not necessarily violently, and unity. It is a basic symbol, thus it is not unexpected it has had numerous meanings depending on the context.

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