I typically don’t like to go too controversial on my blog, but I’m so enamored with Gabby Douglas, I had to share my thoughts on this. During my morning news troll, I came across an article on Sports Illustrated entitled, Life Changing Victory for Douglas, by Phil Taylor. The article laid out how winning gold instantly transformed Gabby’s life and that she not only joins the pantheon of Olympians, but is the first “African American to win.”
That’s so heavy. To think that, at 16 your life changes overnight. Literally. I’ve seen a lot of Facebook traffic about what it means to peak at 16. But I digress. Back to the article…
Here’s the quote that jumped out at me:
From the interview in Sports Illustrated about Gabrielle Douglas: Douglas not only joined Retton, Carly Patterson and Nastia Liukin as the only American women to capture the all-around gold, but she also became the first African-American woman to win the title.
”Oh, my gosh, I forgot about that,” she said. “It’s definitely an amazing feeling and great honor to be the first African-American to win. I hope I can inspire people. My mother told me that I can inspire a nation.”
“Oh, my gosh, I forgot about that.” That is the statement that caught my attention. That is the statement that hit me like a ton of bricks. That is the statement that spoke volumes to me. That is the statement that begged me to pause and think…what does that mean?
Let me preface why this matters to me. Racism exists. It just does. It has existed through our collective global history and in our national history. The ghosts of racism, though shadows of their former self, are still there, lurking in dark corners…hidden away in closets, tucked away in the recesses of our national consciousness. I have seen the ugliness, sometimes in my own family. Perhaps you know what I’m talking about.
Part of me…perhaps the eternal optimist in me…soared above the clouds to read that Gabby “forgot” about being the first Black woman to earn gold in Gymnastics. How wonderful! How liberating! We’re moving lightyears ahead in putting our ghosts behind us. We are realizing Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream!
And then part of me…the skeptic…the historian who sits in fear that when we forget our history, we forget hard learned lessons…begged to ask, what happens if we forget? Is it victory? Or does it make it harder to eradicate the skeletons hidden in the back of our closet? Will it make us complacent? Turn a blind eye? Pretend as if the past never was?
So, I sit here. Conflicted.
I don’t support Gabby because she’s the first Black woman to earn the Gold medal in All-Around, I support Gabby because she represents the American Dream…the Horatio Alger vision of pulling one’s self up from the bootstraps to achieve excellence.
I support Gabby because she poured herself out there on the floor…and then dropped the microphone.
I support Gabby because she is the vision of the America I know we are…deep down…under the infighting, politics, controversy, inequality, and injustice.
We are complex. A sum of our experiences. And one hell of a Cinderella story.
What do you think?
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