Real or Imagined?
Like many people across the world, I have watched the Olympic Games each day since it’s start. My favorite sports to watch are Gymnastics, Swimming and Track and Field.
On August 3rd, I watched as Gabby Douglas took the gold in the individual event. Following her win NBC’s sports commentator, Bob Costas, made some comments that rubbed me the wrong way. I found a portion of his comments on yahoo:
“You know, it’s a happy measure of how far we’ve come that it doesn’t seem all that remarkable, but still it’s noteworthy, Gabby Douglas is, as it happens, the first African-American to win the women’s all-around in gymnastics,” Costas intoned, his besuited left elbow resting comfortably on the anchor desk. “The barriers have long since been down, but sometimes there can be an imaginary barrier, based on how one might see oneself.”
The comment would have been more effective if Bob Costas simply congratulated Gabrielle Douglas for the win, instead of pointing out her race, and then telling the African American community that the barriers we notice on a day-to-day basis don’t exist. Maybe he should talk to Charles and Te’Andrea Wilson. Maybe they imagined their pastor telling them they couldn’t get married at the church they attended because they were black. Maybe Gabrielle imagined having to leave the comfort of her home and family to live in an unfamiliar community just so she could get the best possible training for the Olympics. After all, the black community is overrun with top-notch gymnastic coaches. Maybe I imagined that Costas did not make reference to Jordyn Weiber’s or Alexandra Raisman’s ethnicity.
Unfortunately, in his attempt to point out Gabby’s ability to inspire girls across racial lines, he demonstrates how significant race continues to be in 2012. His comments confirm that Gabby is a Black gymnast: black first, gymnast second. We have come a long way, but we still have quite a bit of work to do. Bob Costas, you could have congratulated the young lady, without insulting a whole community.
To Gabrielle Douglas:
Congratulations on winning the Gold! You were focussed, strong and determined! You are an inspiration to us all! Well done, young lady. Well done! Now…on to Rio!!!