Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Racism: Olympics Edition

Gabby Douglas is an incredible gymnast and now an Olympic gold medalist. But that might be hard to realize, because if you are listening to the media and general Olympics coverage, Gabby is not getting a fair shake. From people criticizing her hair and her mother, to her invisibility in some promotional photos and NBC's coverage, it certainly feels like racism in action.

Due to my traveling schedule, I missed out on all of the gymnastic events so far. But I wanted to round up some of the best coverage I've seen on this for further reading. The linked pieces below get into much greater detail about how Gabby is being treated. Check them out!

Brittney Cooper at The Crunk Feminist Collective:
Gabby showed up for her team in each and every event, and in Black vernacular, she showed out! But that reminds me of some more ol’ school Black wisdom, too– “you have to be twice as good, to get half as far.” Every Black kid hears this at some point in her lifetime. It still rings true. And what our parents don’t say is that even then, you still might be invisible. Invisible, that is, in your accomplishments. Your flaws won’t be treated half so graciously.
Vanessa Gyer at
A picture of Express Night Out’s article was tweeted and Gabby’s name was not mentioned and the publication chose to use a picture that did NOT include Gabby. Oh wait, Gabby was in the picture but in the background. Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross and McKayla Maroney are photographed and praised but why not Gabby? ...This is disgusting and heartbreaking. Even after dominating her sport, Gabby is left in the shadows. Express Night Out & The Washington Post, how do you explain such foolery?
And Monisha Randolph at
What I find very surprising is that many African American women have taken to Facebook and Twitter to comment on Gabby Douglas’ hair. Who is Gabby Douglas you might ask? She’s one of the powerhouse gymnasts of the USA Gymnastics team. Gabby beat out many gymnasts from around the nation to get one of the five spots on the team. She was the only gymnast to earn a guaranteed spot during the USA Olympics trials. On Sunday, July 29th, she outscored three of her teammates to be one of the TWO to represent Team USA in the All Around Gymnastics Finals. On Tuesday, July 31, 2012 Team USA Gymnastics won the gold medal. Yeah, she’s cold. 
...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.
I wonder what Douglas herself has to say about what's been going on. If I had to guess, I would imagine she is currently very "in the zone" of Olympic competition and is only peripherally aware of any of this (if that.) In fact, tomorrow she will be competing in the individual finals so she's got important stuff going on, people! Maybe after she comes home toting her medals, takes a break to relax and reflect, and then she'll have a chance to speak up about the coverage. In either case--I wish her the best of luck and I'm so excited to see all that she can and will achieve! Go get 'em, Gabby!


  1. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I read a lot of feminist blogs and websites and this is the first I have heard about this amazing young woman. (But of course I heard all about Jordyn Wieber & Aly Raisman). Obviously feminists have a long way to go when it comes to race and intersectionality.

    1. I heard of Douglas because I watched the Olympic trials. She was simply amazing and I was very confused as to why I hadn't heard of her yet. Well, now she's got her time to shine, if people could just let her do her thing in peace.

      And yes, sadly, many feminists don't pay as much attention to intersectionality as needed. As Flavia Dzodan said at Tiger Beatdown, "My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit." Amen.

  2. I imagine she's saying something to the affect of, 'Damn, just can't win, can I? Oh wait. I DID!' At least that's what I'd be saying. :) Go Gabby!!


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