Sunday, November 22, 2009

A weak fingered open fist slap in the face

I recently stumbled on an article about Jesse Owens that changed the way that I looked at a window of history. If you don't remember Jesse Owens was the Olympic track and field athlete who defeated the German Luz Long in the 1936 Olympics. He reportedly disgusted Hitler so much with his win that he was rumored to storm off refusing the shake hands with a black man. He was also rumored to say 'The Americans ought to be ashamed of themselves for letting their medals be won by negroes. I myself would never shake hands with one of them'. He became the defeater of the evil racist Nazis. The problem is that Jesse Owens himself had said that the history of the "Hitler snub" was exaggerated and that the way that he was treated in his own country and by his own President that was the most disappointing to him.

Jesse Owens came out of the Olympics using his celebrity to make what money he could, it was the only thing he could do to survive. A man that I grew up being told was a hero for the benevolent United States against the malevolent Axis of evil seemed to have a very different view of his country than we did at that time. Here is a quote from this article about Jesse Owen's view on the racially turbulent 70's in America:
"At the 1968 Mexico Olympics, two black American sprinters, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, used the moment after receiving their medals to give the black power salute. 'The Black fist is a meaningless symbol,' said Owens.

'When you open it, you have nothing but fingers - weak, empty fingers. The only time the black fist has significance is when there's money inside. There's where the power lies.'

Later, he retracted his criticism and said that militancy was the only option for American blacks. 'Any black man who wasn't a militant in 1970 was either blind or a coward.'"
This is an image that I created for this article. WWII was America's most just war but when watching the history channel we sometimes forget how the people in our own country were treated in the backs of busses, being forced to take service elevators or in the Japanese internment camps. Hitler was a man that needed to be defeated but it doesn't mean that we should forget our own history.

The Article:


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