When I boycotted the 1968 Olympics because of racial inequality I was ostracized. Now white athletes are joining their black teammates in protests
JD Davis and Dominic Smith of the New York Mets leave the field after a protest against racism. Photograph: Brad Penner/USA Today Sports
o you want to know what it feels like to be black in America this week? Think about Survivor, or Naked and Afraid, or Alone – or any of those wilderness shows in which a person’s survival in a hostile environment depends on keeping that crucial campfire burning bright. Inevitably, some disaster occurs and the fire nearly goes out. Then, on their hands and knees, the person tries desperately to fan one dying ember back to life.
For the African American community living in a hostile environment, that dying ember is hope. Hope that America was finally committed to racial equity. Hope that being black wasn’t a crime and the punishment wasn’t death. The popularity of the Black Lives Matter movement that swept through America this summer after the killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd stoked that hope inside us into a small but powerful sun.
Then this week, a black man, Jacob Blake, was shot seven times in the back by police, a 17-year-old was charged with intentional homicide after two men were killed at a subsequent protests, and the Republican National Convention featured speakers who, instead of voicing outrage over systemic racism and vowing to end it, complained about the audacity of ungrateful black people protesting that their husbands, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers were being murdered by police while President Trump and the GOP conspired to take away their right to vote.