Gabby Douglas took to the stage yesterday to receive her third Olympic gold medal with gymnasts Aly Raisman, Madison Kocian, Laurie Hernandez, and Simone Biles — arguably one of the best gymnastics teams this country has ever seen.
The perfect execution of her high-flying bar routine, the poise she exhibits on a balance beam and her effortless back flips earned her world recognition, but her perceived lack of patriotism earned her social media criticism.
Gabby, 20, stood with the rest of the fantastic five — a rainbow superhero team, chalk full of diversity — and didn’t put her hand over her heart during the national anthem.
White tears poured out on social media, lambasting the young woman for not showing pride in her country. They painted her as ungrateful and arrogant for not honoring America on the world stage, despite being picked to represent the country.
Gabby later issued a statement saying it was a mishap; she simply was so overwhelmed with the moment she forgot to follow tradition.
When I read her response, I was like, Damn, I wish her intentions were to take a stand. Given the racial climate of the country, many Black Americans, including myself, have been feeling the weight of inequality. Numerous incidents of unjustified slayings of Black people, coupled with the dismissal of the pain and systematic destruction of our communities can leave you feeling very unpatriotic.
It’s a shadow that follows behind your citizenship like a dark cloud — only certain inalienable rights apply to your skin under the law.
Black athletes are often glorified and lifted up above this dark cloud as modern-day gladiators in the stadium, but once the jersey comes off you are liable to be profiled, stereotyped, or even worse, shot on sight.
As Black Americans, we are still aware of the “n*gga in a coup” mentality that allows us to be momentarily exempt from our Blackness when we are entertaining or on a court, but the moment we walk off, we — our children, our mothers, our father, our brothers, and our sisters — are still targets.
Woke celebrities have to damn-near remind White people of their Blackness.
People attempted to white wash the legacy of Muhammad Ali in the wake of his death to gloss over his Black pride and bold protests against American warmongering during Vietnam.
Black athletes like Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade had to remind fans they were Black when they stood on the ESPYS stage and proclaimed Black Lives Matter, acknowledging the pain behind the stitched numbers of their jerseys.
Bursting through the bubble of celebrity pisses the masses off — it’s expected that you stay within the halo of fame because you should just be docile and thankful you even have a platform to begin with.
So when I looked at Gabby, I honestly thought it was a protest, and I felt proud. It reminded me of the defiant 1968 Olympic Black-power salute, telling the world that although Black people were competing at this level abroad, there still was no equality at home.
How can you demand patriotism from Black people who don’t feel safe in their own country?
While I certainly don’t want to put the mantle of Black Lives Matter on a young Olympian, I will say, it would’ve sent a damn-strong message.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty, Twitter