When 16-year-old Gabby Douglas won her gold medals for best individual and best all-around for the USA Women’s’ Gymnastics Team, she became the first African-American to attain that goal. The dream she had as a little girl had finally come true and there was no denying it.
But right after Douglas won, the commercial that followed her win would have sent dead silence through a museum. I’m not sure who decided it would be a smart idea to air a monkey doing gymnastics, but it was clearly not a bright move. NBC has since apologized stating that it was bad timing and nothing more. What I don’t understand is why the gymnastics-themed commercial for the new NBC show Animal Practice was specially timed to run following the Women’s’ gold medal competition.
NBC Universal spokeswoman Liz Fischer said the commercial had already been run three times previously, but that still doesn’t explain why the commercial was intentionally run after that specific competition. They say it was just bad timing and it very well could have been, but I don’t rule out anything from anyone. Racism is still very much alive and well in our world. The only thing that has changed is the expression of it, because of the controversy that comes with racism.
Anytime you put more than one race or type of people in one place, there’s bound to be some type of friction. In a sense, the Olympic Games truly put the world on stage for the entire world to see. Just this year alone, there have been at least four issues involving racism and the Olympic Games. The first is everything surrounding Gabby Douglas, from the commercial to all the talk about her natural hair. Then there’s Greek triple jumper Paraskevi “Voula” Papachristou who was banned from the London Games for tweeting, With so many Africans in Greece at least the West Nile mosquitoes will eat homemade food. Some may say the Hellenic Olympic Committee was too harsh for leaving her behind in Athens, but I agree with their decision. The Games are about respect and honor, not childish ignorance.
Swiss soccer player Michel Morganella also allowed his thoughts and fingers to get him booted out of the Games when he tweeted, I’m going to beat up every Korean. Go burn yourself! Bunch of mongoloids. Just because you’re upset about losing to South Korea doesn’t mean you can say such things. Lithuanian basketball officials were warned by Olympic officials to control their fans from their racial behavior. There was a Lithuanian fan that admitted to making Nazi gestures and monkey chants during the team’s win against Nigeria. They were told if the behavior continued that it would result in punishment in other competitions and possibly even consequences beyond the London Games.
At the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games, Track runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos did something that changed the course of history and their lives. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy had just been assassinated, blacks were still struggling for their human rights, and these two men were ready to take a stand. There had been rumors of some type of protest among the African-American athletes so everyone was on high alert, but as the Games began nothing happened. On day five of the Games, Smith won gold and Carlos won bronze in the 200 meter run. They accepted their medals in a way that got them booed after the presentation and banned from Olympic Village by officials. They both calmly walked to and stood upon the victory podium wearing black socks without shoes to symbolize black poverty in the U.S.
Smith wore a black scarf representing black pride. Carlos wore a strand of colorful beads to protest the lynchings that were still happening in the U.S. He also unzipped his jersey jacket that is against regulation to represent all blue-collar American workers. Then as the National Anthem played, the two bowed their heads and raised their leather glove wearing fists to the sky in salute to Black Power and unity.
Australian silver medalist Peter Norman believed that their struggle for equal human rights and their views on many issues were worth fighting for so he wore an Olympic Project for Human Rights patch on his jersey jacket as a symbol of solidarity. Once they got back to the States, Smith and Carlos faced years of hard times for their brave act. Norman, whose son is making a documentary called Salute about the historic moment, also had a rough time once he got home for supporting them.
Some say that people can be too touchy when it comes to racism and other such things. Though sometimes situations can be blown out of proportion, it’s not going too far defend yourself and others. Though we all bleed red and we’re all human, our race and other such things make up who we are. The last time I checked I was proud of who I am; therefore I’m proud of my race, culture, sex, and everything else that makes me who I am. This is the way God made me. Tommie Smith, John Carlos, and Peter Norman knew that they would only get five seconds in the spotlight, so they decided to use it to let their voices be heard.
If you have the chance to make a change, why not make it? It was their bravery and many more acts like it that paved the way for Gabby Douglas to be able to go for and win gold in London. I feel the same pride when I see a picture of Gabby Douglas standing on that victory podium as I do when I look at a photo of the 1968 Black Power salute. It’s now a sense of only Black pride, but pride for the human rights struggle.