ʽThe struggle is not over’
John Carlos has no regrets over the consequences of his controversial actions at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico.
The former American sprinter and professional football player won the bronze medal in the 200 metres which were overshadowed by his and team-mate Tommie Smith’s controversial Black Power salute on the podium during the medal ceremony in protest against racism in the United States.
The pair were ultimately expelled from the Games by the International Olympic Committee, which deemed their actions to have been a deliberate and violent breach of the fundamental principles of the Olympic spirit.
“I have no regrets, none whatsoever,” Carlos told The Royal Gazette. “I suffered a lot before and one day of joy overshadows a thousand days of suffering.
“When I say that one day of joy, a positive is when I see people come and tell me they were inspired by what I did and what I have had to say after how I have lived my life.
“I have no regrets about anything that I did and, if the time permits and it’s necessary, I still have to do something similar to that today.”
While progress has been made towards racial equality in society, Carlos said the struggle is not over.
“It’s a hell of a lot of work to do,” he added. “What we did was oiled the wheel to get some movement.
“We have a tremendous way to go and I think more now than ever before we need to reflect on self.
“We understand what the White man is doing, we understand his history, but we have to realise we are making history by not doing anything.
“We are talking a good game but we aren’t acting the game we are talking, and that has to be collectively.”
The lifelong activist has travelled to Bermuda to share his experience, strength and hope in the battle for racial equality at the Legends Lunch, which kicked off the inaugural Black Golfers Week Preview at Ocean View Golf Club yesterday.
“From the audience that was there I’d say that I moved quite a few people,” Carlos added. “Based on my experience to the people coming out talking I think I communicated to quite a few of them.”
The visit is the 76-year-old’s first to the island.
“I thought I was invited everywhere in the world and didn’t feel bad about it until I got off the plane here,” he said. “I felt like I was cheated that I hadn’t been invited here in my younger years.
“Had I known about Bermuda then my first visit I probably would’ve been a citizen by now because I would’ve never left.”
The lunch featured conversations on diversity in golf and sport and also included local former professional footballer and golfer Clyde Best and Kim Swan.
“I think it is a good event and is for the right cause,” Best, the former West Ham striker, said. “I’m always for anything to make it better for the people of Bermuda and a lot of those messages were conveyed today.
“It was more than an honour to be there with John Carlos. When I saw him do that salute I thought if those guys can do stuff and be heard, then I can do what I need to do.”
Swan, the former European Tour player and Bermuda Open champion, added: “I think this was an honest conversation that took place today and I was deeply honoured to have been on the podium with two legends.
“You can’t have events celebrating black golf unless you understand the truth of the struggles that have gone and how much they play a part in what we still contend with today.
“For me it was an opportunity to pay homage to those forefathers that were denied the opportunity to express their talents to share with the community.”
Charles H. Jeffers II, the Bermuda Tourism Authority chief executive, deemed yesterday’s event as a success.
“I am extremely excited that this prequel, as we’ve been calling it, has gone over so well,” he said. “It’s been well received by the public and I couldn’t have asked for a better panellists.
“Our moderator, Hazel Clark, did a fantastic job and the message that each of them brought was just awesome.
“The fact that they brought their message with so much passion was incredible and I’m really excited about that.”