The following is a topic suggested by Mary Burrell.
Gabriel “Gabby” Douglas is a name that is currently famous in the internet and sports news media. Why? This young 16 year-old girl win gold medals in both individual and team all-around competitions for the U.S. Women’s gymnastic’s team during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. This little trooper has made history to become the first African American woman to become an individual all-around champion AND the first American gymnast to win the gold in both team and individual competitions at the same time.
I think Gabby deserves a standing ovation, don’t you think? However, there are a few things going on that is trying to downplay the successes of this little prodigy. As usual one of those culprits is the mainstream media with i’s White American hero lens and overall appetite for sensationalism. However, there is another that is equally troubling, and that is the criticism from American black women.
Let’s get to the mainstream media first.
I did my research about Gabby Douglas’ coverage and found out that the media was, for lack of a better term, a hater. An article from Clutch Magazine stated how Gabby’s success was shadowed by the media’s insistence to focus on Jordan Wieber since the latter fits more into the “All-American” narrative. Yet, that would not have a significant impact as to NBC’s commercialism.
After Gabby’s reported win by Bob Costas, NBC then aired a promotion for its up-and-coming show ‘Animal Practice’ that featured a monkey doing gymnastics. Immediately, people were outraged and cried “Racist!” on the spot.
Some people thought it was poor timing on NBC’s part to air the promotion right after that report. Some people thought too many whiners made a big deal about nothing. I mean after all, people like to see racism in everything. But, what some people fail to realize is the history of associating black people with primates has been a part of American society for generations. And it is hurtful to even suspect that such was the case in this matter even if there were no intentions. Whether this was the response to Gabby’s big wins is another, more complicated story.
Seeing a monkey doing gymnastics may have been hilarious at any other time, but to see it after witnessing a black woman, or black person in general, performing gymnastics reopens old wounds for many people, especially blacks.
Yet, the hysteria didn’t end there! There were haters coming out the woodwork criticizing Gabby’s hair. Sadly, most of the disdain came from black women who thought this young champion’s hair was not “kept” and that she wasn’t “representing” as she should – with her hair. SERIOUSLY!?
Monisha R. at Sporty Afros explains the shear ridiculousness of this haterism way better than I can right now:
“Have we forgotten that Gabby is competing at Olympics XXX? This is not America’s Next Top Model that we’re watching. These ladies are participating in a global athletic competition. And the last time I checked when you play a sport, you sweat. I know I do. And when a Black woman who has chosen to wear her hair straight begins to sweat, her hair will (not might) begin to revert back to its natural coily, curly, or kinky state. Does Gabby need to stop every five minutes to check her hair? No. When one experiences back-to-back intense workouts, that person learns what works best on their hair.“
Through all this and more, I wondered about something that makes no sense. People always tell black folks that they need to “pull up their bootstraps” and work hard harder in order to achieve their goals. Gabby did just that. She overcame adversity with the help and support of her family. Now that she not only succeeded but also made history, for some reason or another, there’s a problem with that? Sighs!
People, understand that this is a 16 year-old girl who has accomplished WAY more than most 16 year-olds have done! Hell, she has accomplished way more than MOST ADULTS! Gabby is a story everyone should be proud of. She’s not a teen mom. She’s not a gang member. She is a champion! There should be nothing wrong with that, but in a country like America, it is apparently.