THE BLOG
07/28/2016 06:05 pm ET Updated Jul 29, 2017

In These Troubling Times, Let's Reflect On The Legacy Of Jesse Owens

ASSOCIATED PRESS

I really like leap years. Leap years coincide with Olympic years -- which means we get a never-ending supply of aesthetics, suspense, and emotions on TV during the month of August.

The Games always take place within a wider context. In 2016, our planet is in a state of turmoil in the face of extreme terrorism. Therefore, this year's Olympic Games painfully call to mind those of 1936, when the terror of the Third Reich had already instilled the hatred of Jews.

But 80 years ago, faced with the rising horror, a man made history in the span of 10 seconds. Right in the midst of racial segregation in the United States, Jesse Owens, the grandson of slaves, made the choice to go to the Berlin Games, and win, right in front of an enraged Hitler.

The gods of the stadium are those who bring people together, and not those who divide people for a treacherous and ephemeral reign.

Before the whole world's eyes, a black man earned four Olympic gold medals, destroying theories of the existence of a superior race. That supreme humiliation of a furious Fuhrer will always be ours. Thank you Jesse Owens.

The movie "La Couleur de la Victoire" or "The Color of Victory," which spotlights the life of Jesse Owens (directed by Stephen Hopkins), had its French debut on July 27.

The courage it required to complete such a project gives me goosebumps. I was touched to finally see the common victory for blacks and Jews -- men who faced despicable crimes -- on screen.

The gods of the stadium are those who bring people together, and not those who divide people for a treacherous and ephemeral reign.

Owens, the fastest man in the world, saved me: A black athlete, a Jew, and the granddaughter of a deportee.

As I ran, I was moved by an immortal energy, that of my parents and my grandparents -- who were slaves and camp survivors.

Before each of my races, standing alone on the starting line, waiting for the gunshot, I had Jesse Owens and Berlin on my mind. I would think of the time my own people were banned from the Olympic Stadium, simply for being Jewish.

So, like Jesse Owens, I made myself run.

To run as fast as I could was to give this stadium back a little bit of the dignity it lost after the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup.

To run faster was to get over the judgment of men, and to think of the stopwatch and nothing else.

To run faster was to feel the muscles, the blood, and the breath that we all have in common -- and to remember that we have a shared fight against prejudice. Running displayed our power, and clinching gold restored our dignity.

As I ran, I was moved by an immortal energy, that of my parents and my grandparents -- who were slaves and camp survivors. That energy keeps me alive today.

Owens made sure that the Olympic Games would always be a cause for celebration. This reminds us that we have the power to take action against extremism and barbarism. It is also a reminder that sports, which are too often denigrated at schools or regarded as economically burdensome, are invaluable.

Today, while we find ourselves feeling helpless in the face of economic recessions, mass intolerance, ignorance, crazed murderers, there is art... and there are film like this one.

Owens, played by Stephan James, reminds us that we can refuse to be discriminated against according to our identities.

Discrimination and injustice touches all of us, wherever we are, whoever we are: Jews, Muslims, Catholics, blacks, homosexuals, or women.

And fraternity is not restricted to dogs.*

This film revives hope in human beings, and that's a victory.

*Thanks to Romain Gary's novel "Chien Blanc" or "White Dog."

This post first appeared on HuffPost France. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.