Why the raised fist is so powerful

(CNN)When American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised black-gloved fists over their heads during the medal ceremony at the Olympic Games in Mexico City in 1968, they embodied much of the political turbulence of the era. The photo of the two — heads bowed, arms outstretched, gold and bronze medals hanging around their respective necks — became an instant classic, one of the best-known images of the 20th century.

Smith and Carlos had an entire movement behind their fists. The Olympic Project for Human Rights, taking many cues from the civil rights movements then sweeping across much of the country, had threatened a black boycott of Mexico City. While the boycott failed to materialize, Smith and Carlos took their own stand on behalf of equal rights in the United States.

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Some concluded that the duo abused the Olympic space that had been granted them, while others understood that disrupting something like a medal ceremony was an ideal way to get attention for a political priority. “It’s a free country,” said four-time gold medalist Al Oerter at the time. “Perhaps if I felt as strongly about it as they do, I’d do the same thing.”
Many have appropriated the raised fist since then. Flash forward to 1995, when disgruntled baseball fans disconnected it from Black Power to express their disillusionment with the ending of the strike. At Shea Stadium, three fans wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the word GREED took to the field during the fourth inning of a Mets-Giants matchup, throwing 150 one-dollar bills at the players in an Abbie Hoffman-inspired protest. They concluded their action by standing on second base, clenched fists raised overhead. The crowd went nuts.
The women in the West Point photograph have remained silent about the reason behind their action. But since African-American women represent a mere 1.7% of a graduating class of almost 1,000 cadets, it might not be too hard to guess what they were after.
Because sometimes an image such as this one, using a symbol as powerful as a clenched fist held overhead, is the best way to tell a story, ensuring that people will talk about it for a very long time.

Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/09/opinions/west-point-cadets-raised-fist-bass/index.html

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