Why I’m Not Watching The Olympic Games
Or at least, like I used to.
As a brown-skinned girl, I used to be consumed by near-everything about the Olympics— the athleticism, the rivalries, and the history-making.
I loved Carl Lewis. I worshiped at the feet of Jackie Joyner-Kersee. My heart skipped a beat with the hope that just maybe a Black Caribbean woman like Pauline Davis of The Bahamas or Merlene Ottey of Jamaica, could win the gold.
Dominique Dawes and the “Magnificent Seven” at the 1996 Summer Olympics? Unforgettable.
But 20 years later, I’m just not that into it.
The Games are replete with moving stories of triumphant underdogs, remarkable comebacks, and once-in-a-lifetime sports domination. My social media timelines are filled with the #BlackGirlMagic of Rafaela Silva, Gabrielle Douglas, Simone Biles and Simone Manuel — as they should be.
And I’m excited too. But I’m still not watching.
Perhaps it’s because I’m tired — tired of the love folk have for black bodies but not for black lives.
I’m tired of animal-like qualities being used to describe the athleticism of Serena Williams; weary of the racism and sexism which tries to marginalize respect and awe of her athletic dominance.
I’m tired of folk — black women included — talking about Gabrielle Douglas’ hair. I’m tired of white women “inventing,” “discovering,” and being praised for Bantu knots, box braids, cornrows, full lips, and big booties.
I’m tired of white folk who had nothing to say regarding black deaths at the hands of American police, transfer the same disdain to Black Olympians with guidance on reverential decorum during the national anthem, with requests for athletes to describe themselves as ‘American’ and not African American, and with mandates for them to remain humble.
I’m tired of racist and white supremacist systems which continue to limit black equality so definitively, that in 2016, accolades remain uncollected for being the “first African American” to achieve anything in any industry.
Swimming, like science, like politics, like business and education, have each been at the mercy of our world-class intellect, talent and creativity. But for our race being at the mercy of American discrimination, we long ago would have transcended the vile stereotypes of excellence relegated to singing, rapping, dancing, praying, running, hurdling, jumping, swimming, boxing, tumbling across a floor, and kicking, catching, throwing, hitting or chasing a ball.
I’m tired of black joy and black excellence being the only vengeance we’ve got.
And I’m tired of fighting for historically black colleges and universities for folk who don’t see the value in their own institutions when there would be no Simones were it not for Tuskegee and Albany State university’s Alice Coachman, Florida A&M University’s Althea Gibson, and a generation of Tennessee State University Tigerbelles including most notably Wilma Rudolph— all HBCU products.
I’m tired, but I’m going to keep fighting.
I’m watching the Games tonight, hoping for more moments that will make me want to start watching them like I used to.