Wednesday, August 13, 2008

How Are They Remembered?

In 1968, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, two black American sprinters in the Mexico City Olympics that year, stood on the podium sporting gold and bronze medals respectively for the 200-meter track race. During the national anthem, they made history by raising their black leather glove-covered fists in protest of unequal rights in the United States. The medals the young men won for their country soon were forgotten and all attention turned to their civil disobedience. Consequently, both athletes were suspended for the national team and ousted from the Olympic Village. How disruptive and disrespectful was this non-violent protest? Did these athletes burn a flag, turn their backs, or laugh during their national anthem? No they didn't. How are they remembered? For their accomplishments as Olympic athletes or for disrespecting our sacred national anthem with a silent fist in the air--the same national anthem that calls us the land of the free and the home of the brave? Our country remembers them for the latter even though two brave men stood on the podium with hopes for one day to live in the land of the free that the our national anthem refers to.

We are so fortunate that 40 years later we have come so far in our country that an Olympic icon like Michael Phelps has the freedom of expression to laugh through the national anthem as he makes history receiving his tenth gold medal--more than any other athlete in history. How will he be remembered? For disrespecting our sacred national anthem by laughing or for the Olympic history he has made through his accomplishments in the water? You be the judge.

Friday, August 8, 2008

What's in a Name?

What’s in a name? We all were given our names for a reason—be it a family name, a name with a special meaning, or a name that was just made up by innovative parents. Whatever the reason, names often define who we are.

For hundreds of years black people in America have been called all sorts of names—slave, three-fifths, colored, Negro, nigger, black, Afro-American, African American, boy, George, gator bait, Ann, ape, Aunt Jemima, Buffie, coon, crow, gable, jigaboo, Jim Crow, jungle bunny, Leroy, Macaca, monkey, mosshead, mustard seed, nig-nog, nig-jig, nigra, powder burn, quashie, Sambo, smoked Irish, sooty, tar baby, thicklips, Uncle Tom, and host of other names that were used by America to try and define a “race” of people (go to wikipedia for a full list of ethnic slurs and their meanings). Black people have now been able to define for themselves what it means to be black in America. With the emergence of Hip Hop there has been much controversy surrounding the word nigger—who can say it, who can’t say it. Many of the names black people have been called over the years have been offensive at best and totally negate the sticks and stones malarkey we all grew up hearing. But I do believe in the wise words of many elders and Whoopi Goldberg when she says, “It’s not what you’re called, but what you answer to honey.”

So why ask the question what’s in a name now? Well, I have two reasons really. First the use of names in the current presidential race and second the younger generation’s attempt to relate through a total lack of respect. I know Hillary is no longer in the race, but I’m going to throw her up in the mix because this applies to her as well. Read the full article on Divine Caroline.