To be young, gifted and Black…and under attack
Disappointing doesn’t even begin to cover what 2012 all-around women’s gymnastics gold medal winner Gabby Douglas probably thinks of her showing in these Rio games, finishing 7th in the uneven bars in the only individual event she was selected to compete in. Sadly, that’s not even the biggest obstacle she’s had to face.
In the wake of Simone Biles’ coronation as the new queen of the mats, Douglas has been accused of not properly supporting her teammates in the stands and even been chewed out via the denizens of Make America Great Again Twitter for not putting her hand over her heart for the national anthem when she and her US teammates won the overall team gold medal over a week ago.
It’s been hard for Gabby, who recently was brought to tears by questions about her body language and her mother has said that her Olympic experience has been ruined by cyber-bullying.
Is this any way to treat the first Black girl to win the overall individual gold at the Olympics? Of course not, but being Black and talented in a world that generally and genuinely frowns upon Black success of any kind, it’s not surprising.
Being one of the few, if not the only, Black people/person in a certain environment, be it work, team sports, etc., means having your head on a swivel for all kinds of micro and macro-aggressions aimed at discrediting your work and your character on a daily basis. It’s something a lot of us have gotten used to and there are a lot of us who find ourselves pissed off at how we’re treated because people don’t care to understand you or just want you out of the picture.
It’s never easy to be called into meetings because you’re not smiling enough (or refuse to smile on demand for someone, as what happened to me at one particular former place of employment), it’s annoying to be asked why you don’t go to happy hour or care for team building exercises when the reality is you’re there to make money, not friends. It’s quite frustrating that you can be at your desk minding your business and people are asking you “Why are you so mad all the time?”
This is the reality of being Black in the workplace, where people will try the fuck out of you daily to see if you’ll snap and then they have there “Oh, there he/she goes, being the Angry Black Man/Woman” certificate of proof. And of course, the others in the office will play obliviously blind to the issues in your work life they’ve created by not knowing when to mind their own business.
This is what Gabby Douglas is facing in Rio currently — not enough pep in her step or patriotism in heart for talentless hacks and losers who tweet and post racist drivel from the comfort of their musty couches when they can’t even flip pancakes correctly, let alone execute any type of athletic moves.
This is a pivotal point in Gabby’s life — she’ll be 21 at the end of this year, her Olympic glory days possibly in the rear view mirror and she still has many years of life left to live. Hopefully she won’t let the attacks of a bunch of suckers take away from her place in history.
And hopefully Simone Biles and other young, gifted and Black kids are watching because there’s always someone ready to tear you down after they build you up.