The image of John Carlos and Tommie Smith raising their fists at the 1968 Olympic Games is burned into the American zeitgeist. It is a symbol of the civil rights movement that will always be remembered for the subtle yet powerful message that Black folks were not okay in this country.
The Stand: How One Gesture Shook The World, by Becky Paige and Tom Ratcliffe, is a documentary that chronicles the backstory leading up to that famous moment. Racism was rampant in America, with Jim Crow laws and segregation being in full force in the South. 1968 was also the year Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F Kennedy were assassinated. The Vietnam War had been raging for thirteen years. And to add to all of that, the Mexico City Olympics were on their way.
“The image of John Carlos and Tommie Smith raising their fists at the 1968 Olympic Games is burned into the American zeitgeist.”
The film focuses not just on the lives of John Carlos and Tommie Smith, but the lives of those who helped the two men get to that special moment, including Martin Luther King himself before he was murdered. It brings to light the obstacles Black athletes faced, especially on the world stage. Post-Jackie Robison, Black players were still not welcomed by the fans of certain teams or even their White teammates.
The Stand: How One Gesture Shook The World does an exceptional job showing how complicated the road to the Mexico Olympics was. Black Olympic athletes that qualified considered boycotting the games to send a message to the country and the world. They were even threatened, along with their families, for trying to stand up. It took not only the Black athletes but also the help of White allies to get Carlos and Smith to Mexico. The Harvard crew team were some of the partners that played a big part in this. Then when things couldn’t get worse, disaster struck when Smith pulled a groin muscle that threatened to take him out of competing all together.
"…a pertinent history lesson for ALL people..."