Let’s just get right into it.
Gabby Douglas did her 2nd stint in the Olympics, competing for this raggedy-ass country. The U.S. gymnastics team (thanks, in large part, to the Black Girl Magic of Gabby and Simone Biles) won the gold model. And during the ceremony, this happened:
(Now, I could go into a rant about how problematic the olympic games are, in general, but that’s not the point of this, particular piece…so I’ll just link to a Twitter thread where I ranted about it, instead)
Immediately, everyone (well…mainly some white people) lost their shit. This was initially seen as an act of protest and defiance, but (to my slight disappointment), it ended up being completely unintentional. But all of the clarifying, apologizing and general respectability in the world hasn’t stopped anti-BW bigots (which is absolutely not limited to white people) from having their field day with her. She’s been the latest in a long line of Black Women who’ve had to take a great deal of harassment on social media. Really, Black Women are prime targets of harassment on social media for simply existing, but Gabby’s has been rationalized by her so-called “bad attitude.”
Here’s the truth of the matter, though: Gabby doesn’t owe you, or anyone else, shit. She made it to the Olympics via her own skill and hard work. She’s representing this genocidal, parasitic waste of a nation to help bolster you nationalists and your false, over-inflated sense of patriotism on the back of the hard work of her and the other athletes who have been collecting medals for the U.S., while you sit on your ass, stuffing your face with Cheetos and talking shit. If anything, you should be thanking her.
And really, even if she weren’t an Olympic-caliber athlete, Gabby is human. She’s entitled to have bad days where she’s not feel like smiling or being the upbeat robot that a lot of people want her to be. And even if her not putting her hand over heart was intentional, that would’ve perfectly been fine, too. ‘Murica is an absolute rat-infested sewer of a country for a significant portion of humanity. We have absolutely no obligation to participate in some inane ritual where we pledge loyalty to a piece of fabric that’s always been a symbol of genocide, exploitation and oppression, all for the sake of making white supremacists comfortable.
But even when she apologized and went out of her way to express her loyalty to this damn country (as I dry-heave, once again), a lot of people still refused to let it go. So many people hate Black Women so much that they had to cling to any excuse to perpetuate their deep-seated misogynoir. So when Gabby wasn’t visibly jubilant at her teammate Simone’s performance, the anti-Black/BW bigots pounced, once again.
It’s amazing seeing and hearing commentary about how Gabby’s public persona is “damaged,” purely because she didn’t present as happy and grateful enough. Meanwhile, pieces of human excrement like Donald Trump (for white supremacists) and R. Kelly (for Black men who hate Black Women) are still practically deified by so many.
There’s this expectation that Black folks (especially women) are supposed to be smiling and happy all the time…but not too much, because we also have to always give off this demeanor of being overtly grateful for every second that we’re “allowed” to exist in this country (and for an example of what happens when we’re too happy and proud, think back to Cam Newton). We’re not granted the autonomy to be proud or arrogant, to visibly show that we might just be having a bad day, or even to be indignant at how abusive all of that is.
This just all speaks to why I don’t aspire to respectability and trying to appease willfully ignorant, abusive people and their bigotry. You can be a Gabby Douglas, who does everything that they say you’re supposed to do in this country and they’ll still find any excuse to happily dump all over you. If Black people who amount to the ‘Murican ideals of success can’t even gain autonomy to be human, there’s no use in the rest of us trying.
I implore us to do much more of these two things:
- Tear down and ditch respectability politics. We should all live as unapologetically and authentically as we can feasibly and safely do, and don’t let bigotry from small-minded people be your deterrent from doing so.
- Show up for those who are being attacked. Whether it’s offering them safe space, a kind and affirming word, calling problematic people out/in, etc.
We need to break out of the confines of trying to appease white supremacy and embrace full humanity of ourselves. In the process of dismantling this bullshit system, I want us to just be great and happy and live on our own terms. Simple as that.