If you were discouraged by the media’s coverage of Gabby Douglas’ historic victory, you’re not alone. But realize that change comes but slowly. Try changing your expectations and considering action.
Expect that Gabby’s white host parents may get credit somewhat at the expense of Gabby’s parents. While her father’s situation seems a bit unclear, her parents only got divorced this year. So no, Gabby was not raised in a single parent household despite coverage that has made her dad disappear. On the other hand, we don’t know the whole story, are not entitled to know the whole story and don’t want to distract from her moment – especially if it turns out to be messy.
Expect that the media’s desire to anoint and celebrate Jordyn and the other young white women will lead to uneven, quibbling, inaccurate and sometimes disparaging commentary about Gabby. To be fair, Jordyn has been a longstanding champion with whom the media is much more familiar than Douglas. On the other hand, NBC’s coverage has been particularly swarmy, and not just with respect to Douglas. Its response to criticism, smug. But honestly, dial back to 2008 and remember how NBC treated then candidate Obama. This is an opportunity to unplug from NBC and listen to the BBC coverage and other media outlets.
Expect the media to downplay her intelligence, hard work in favor of her natural ability. ‘Nuf said. Traditional coverage of black athletes.
Instead of getting down about the coverage, I suggest taking action.
Let’s not miss the opportunity to celebrate our own in all the Olympic events, not just in basketball, track and field but in swimming Nia Leal – you have love someone whose name means ‘purpose’ in Swahili. And Bahamian swimmer Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace. Consider the irony of her position:
“It’s really sad. We’re surrounded by water, we’re literally surrounded by water, and so many people don’t know how to swim.”
Special love to Nzingha Prescod in fencing – got to holla at an athlete named for the African queen. She trained at the Peter Westbrook Foundation. Westbrook was an African American fencing champion and businessman who made fencing training available to diverse athletes. I love that people are getting college scholarships from something that doesn’t involve the pummeling that football players have to take or hoop dreams. He’s created a legacy. What will yours be?
Finally, love to the African diaspora representing on the US volleyball team: Foluke Akinradewo, Tayyiba Haneef-Park, Megan Hodge, Destinee Hooker, Danielle Scott-Arruda and their teammate, Pacific Islander Tamari Miyashiro.
Let’s stop tearing each other down. Period. I’m simply appalled by the manufactured mini-controversy about Gabby’s hair, specifically her hair roots going back. How small and irrelevant can things get? It reminds me how many high achieving African Americans (Colin Powell, Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, Condoleeza Rice, Mae Jameson, Richard Parsons, …) spent significant periods of time outside of traditional African American contexts. We might want to consider what makes that separation seem to be almost a necessary perquisite to success.
Let’s not give Gabby the hoochie treatment. Here’s a young woman who likes to knit and dedicates her success to God. I defriended three middle aged African American men on Facebook who made sexually suggestive remarks about this child. Ugh.
In short, expect media bias, especially from mainstream American outlets. Either listen critically, turn the commentary down or pursue alternative sources. But torment yourselves. This is status quo. And in truth, things are getting better.
And most important, let’s make sure that we don’t add our own hang ups and negativity to the stew.