So, why does all this matter? Why should we care? Doesn’t this happen to anyone who is famous and in the spotlight?
To start, I’ll answer my last question first. No. No, this does not happen to everyone who is famous. Yes, there is always “dirt” on people, but the way that dirt is handled in the media is different if you are Black, Brown, or Asian. It is just that simple. We didn’t hear how Raisman was having a “bad hair day.” No one commented on Maroney’s parents and their financial history. Yet, when Gabby wins the gold and does so in a decisive manner, the Black “pookie story” runs wild. Moreover, Gabby is continued to be looked at as less than in subversive passive manners blind to most without the critical eye of racial awareness. Bankruptcy, hair, not being patriotic enough, barely getting to the Olympics because she was “poor,” and of course the discussions on her father all take center stage when your Black; these are the racial narratives most Black athletes who do not fit the social stereotype of an athlete have to contend with.
Because if you are Black, aggressive, male, tattooed up, loud, from the ‘hood and play either basketball or football and/ or run track, that is an acceptable form of a “Black Athlete” because that is what “Blacks do” and it fits the stereotype. But Gabby does not fit that social script. In fact, since Dominique Dawes, she is the first African American female to compete in the Olympics; and Dawes was back in 1996—that right there needs to sink in for a minute. To add more insult to racial injury, Bob Costas on NBC read off a scripted discourse that said there were no barriers anymore for Blacks and that the “field is wide open” for Blacks, but that they still needed to announce that Douglas was the “first” to win the all-around competition nevertheless. Whoever wrote that needs to study the savage racial inequalities in the U.S. just over the last century alone.So why does this matter? Why should we care? Because, we live in a time where it has been suggested that racism is dead. It is a “post racial” society (because of the “Black president”). We should not be talking about racial issues anymore because they are a figment of our imagination. These are all socially constructed myths which are debunked when someone like Gabby does what she does and is then grilled over the racial coals. Anytime you have the first of any type of racial/ ethnic group, we have not “made it.” That is merely the beginning of a very long road ahead and that person then becomes pioneerial. Gabby is that a pioneerial persona who is opening up doors to many other Black athletes. This matters because as someone who works with and in youth culture, the racial component is a big one and it is easy for many White’s to ignore it because they themselves do not have to endure such comments which then get thrusted back onto the rest of the culture, race, and ethnic group as a symbol of the whole. This matters because Gabby is the face of many teens in the ‘hood, suburbs, and rural contexts that do not get the credit for having the amazing attitude, personality, drive, and spirit that they do. Black kids are typically stereotyped and I am here to exclaim: Gabby is not an anomaly among Black youth!
Lastly, this discussion is important because it continues to reveal the deep seated racist interpretations toward Blacks that the media has and has had for decades; it merely reveals itself in passive ways. We have to remember, the “Devil” (in whatever form it may take) never comes at us with the full entourage of horns, red face, glowing eyes, goat legs, and a whipping tail. If it did, then we would all run in the other direction. No. What does come forward is the passive, back seat, back room, and subversive racial suggestions which come at us daily in the form of commercials, ads, and sound bites which divulge racial bias’ that many of us accept as “normal.” Gabby Douglas is that example.