Let’s Talk About It: “Gabrielle Douglas, Historic Gold Medalist & Liar?!”
Welcome back all you Dynamos out there! We missed you! I hope you had a great summer! Unless you spent your summer under a rock, you know that the Olympics went down, and America was on it! Yes, we won the medals race (oh, and Ryan Lochte is fly) - USA! USA! USA! The most exciting Olympics 2012 development for me and most people I know is the history that our girl Gabrielle Douglas made. (You probably know her better as Gabby Douglas, but this little diva prefers to be called Gabrielle because of the beauty of the name – that’s what’s up Ms. Douglas!) Gabrielle became the first Black female to win Gold in the gymnastics all-around, and she gave God all the praise! Unfortunately if you type the letters G-A-B-B in Google “gabby douglas hair” is the second thing that auto completes because her hair got a lot of hype. If I told you I was one who didn’t question her hair choice while watching her initial performances, I would be a liar, but that’s another Dynamo article completely. I’m glad that such a trivial issue has not completely overshadowed the light that Gabrielle constantly exhibits.
Oprah recently interviewed Gabrielle and her two families on her “Oprah’s Next Chapter” show. Ms. Douglas talked about some of the isolation she felt and racial comments she endured while training in her original gym in Virginia. She gave one example of how one of her teammates once called her a slave. Yes, a slave. Yes, black girls still get called “slave” in the twenty first century. Following this statement from Gabrielle, the gym where this occurred strongly refuted these claims saying that they seem to be fake because she never gave any names or dates. The representative from the gym questioned “Is Gabrielle a credible person just because she is an Olympic Champion?” Of course, I was not there when this alleged “slave” incident occurred, so I cannot with any certitude say that this truly happened to Gabrielle; but why would she lie about that? She is a gold medalist at 16 years old, what pleasure would she take from making up a story that one of her teammates called her a slave? Perhaps we should think that in this time in our great Nation’s history, black people are not being called slaves anymore by people who aren’t a part of the Arian Nation or the KKK. Wouldn’t that be great! Let’s not kid ourselves though. (Click here to see other recent incidents of racism in sports).
As someone who grew up in an environment where I was the only black girl, or one of the only black girls all the time; I can attest that sometimes white children that come from “good” families say some very rude things to the only black person they know. I was only called “nigger” to my face once by a classmate, but I was often chastised about my hair (one time it was called “papery”, that was the first and only time I’ve ever heard that word). Once I was called Rodney King, and I was even called a slave by one of my best friend’s father. He quickly apologized after he saw I didn’t laugh at what he thought was a friendly joke. Prior to this incident, I will say that I always felt very welcome and comfortable in his home and he treated me like one of his daughters. He still treated me like his daughter, even after he called me a slave, but my point is sometimes “good people” get out of line and say and do racist things. I will never tell the names of the people who said these things to me (even though I remember – first and last names), does that mean they did not occur? It may be passive aggressive to address such experiences without shaming the individuals responsible at the same time, but my hope is that the school of life has taught them how much of a jerk they are and that they have done better since. Gabrielle has addressed the rude young lady in her own way; and I’m sure this girl now feels like a jerk for calling a gold-medalist a slave (if this teammate even remembers what she said).
What annoys me more than Gabrielle being called a slave is that the gym acts as though bullying could never happen in their facility. What dream world do they live in? Even if Gabrielle never attended this gym, I would be willing to bet my last dime that there have been other kids that have felt bullied at this facility. Unfortunately, bullying is a part of growing up in America. It happens everywhere, from school to church, to Boy and Girl Scouts, to sports, and anywhere else adolescents come together in groups. Can anyone say they have never either been bullied, seen bullying occur, of heard from a friend or family member that they were bullied, or maybe even been a bully themselves? I’m glad she said something about her experience because it is creating a necessary dialogue. My hope is that the bullies out there and the “people who aren’t racist but sometimes say racist things” will think twice before they open their mouths from now on, and that the victims of bullying and racism will be encouraged by Gabrielle’s positive spirit and rise in spite of them.
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