Where Is the Black Outcry Against China?

| Fri Mar. 28, 2008 8:20 PM EDT

As much opprobrium as is being heaped on Obama's pastor Rev. Wright these days, what about the black folks who aren't speaking up? If anyone with an African forebear is black, and blacks are assumed to feel some sort of kinship with each other, how can any blacks take part in the Beijing Olympics this summer?

Of course, my argument is that 'black' is meaningless unless its disparate communities can be shown to overlap politically or culturally and, most of all, demonstrate some sort of allegiance to each other. I wish all 'blacks' did, but we don't. So what's the point in demanding that the label be applied to all of us when it comes to protests, but not on the ground when a discrete group of non-native born blacks are getting their asses kicked for the crime of being black?

We didn't fight for the Haitian boat people, qua blacks. We didn't fight for Rwanda, nor against the Darfur genocide. Steven Spielberg pulled out as artistic director of the Beijing Olympics (and adopted a black child), but multi-millionaire black athletes are taking the fifth on China's crimes lest their marketability drop even a tad. China is Sudan's largest investor, a country which is at war with its 'black' population. It even enslaves them. If 'black' has any meaning, where is the black outcry against China's investment in genocide against Sudan's blacks?

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Black Olympic athletes did exactly that in 1968 when they had everything to lose. But today? From Orin Starn:

This summer marks the 40th anniversary of the famous black power protest at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

Two American sprinters, John Carlos and Tommie Smith, raised black-gloved fists on the medal stand during the Star Spangled Banner. They wanted to spotlight poverty and racism just months after the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. and riots in Newark and Detroit.

Can we expect any such protests at the Beijing Olympics this summer?

No. The era of the activist athlete is over. We've entered the age of the corporate sports champion, the superstar as a global brand who shies from politics to keep full market share.

Consider the contrast between 1968 and a more recent medal ceremony controversy. At the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, Reebok was the official U.S. Olympic team sponsor, but Michael Jordan and other American basketball stars had big Nike endorsement deals. The players decided to drape American flags over the offending Reebok logo on their team sweats during the gold medal ceremony. Here the dispute no longer concerned the great social questions of the day. It was about the arithmetic of marketing and the endorsement dollar.

It's easy to be against whites. But are you for blacks? Even when it costs you something?