Rhetoric & Composition I Rotating Header Image

2016 Super Bowl & 1968 Olympics

What do Beyoncé, Tommie Smith and John Carlos have in common? They all managed to get the white political establishment to sputter in outrage by daring to celebrate their identity and mention – gasp – racial politics at a public event.

In 1968, Mr. Smith and Mr. Carlos, who had won the gold and bronze medals in the 200-meter race at the Mexico City Olympics, bowed their heads and raised their arms in a clenched-fist salute during their medal ceremony. Politicians and talking heads were furious at this political gesture at the Olympics, where the carrying of national flags and the playing of national anthems are revered traditions — and political gestures to their core.

This year, Beyoncé has the right-wing commentariat gasping because she performed her new song “Formation” during the Super Bowl halftime show. The song is about, among other things, the way the mostly black victims of Hurricane Katrina were and still are ill served, to put it mildly. Its accompanying video mourns the black victims of undue police violence. And it includes other references to white racism in American history. (And, yes, Beyoncé and her backup dancers raised their fists in the air during their Super Bowl performance – imagine that!)

NYT: Beyoncé’s Halftime Show Inspires Ridiculous Criticism
BBC: 1968: Black athletes make silent protest