There isn’t anything remotely close to London Olympic gold medalist, Gabby Douglas, being a squirrel—be it flying, scurrying or smashed like roadkill. Gabby is the quintessential American hero who has risen like a graceful Phoenix—dark skin, thick lips, broad nose, coily hair and all.
Gabby is not a mascot that you pat in sympathy with white patronizing sentiments like a Pickanini slave child dancing for watermelon seeds.
Her father is serving in the military with an overseas deployment, while her mother pooled all of her resources so that she and Gabby’s siblings could be there to support. They may be cooking dinners on hotplates at the hotel, but they are there by hook or crook.
That is the black family template I know. We make do when the can’t do is staring us down in the face.
So let me give this PSA to the world: The name, ‘The Flying Squirrel‘ is not cute nor is it endearing.
And though I am sure Gabby laughs at this ‘nickname’, and wears it proud, I am quite disgusted. And I know I am not alone. As a result, I will take the role as her elder, and defend her, even if she isn’t quite clear how historically demeaning and racialized it is to be reduced to a furry, disease-infested, buck-toothed critter.
She was thought to not have “what it took to be an Olympian” because ‘experts’ believed she “lacked confidence and focus”. Commentators emphasized these ‘doubts’ with implications that she had fell short on maturity, competition experience and an understanding of what it took to be a victor.
It seemed as if her only skill was to smile like a 20th century Amos N’ Andy caricature. But we who have been there knows that Gabby, whether consciously or not, understands the true meaning of “grin and bear it” or to smile, even when they are the meanest.
Juxtaposed against Gabby was her teammate Jordan Wieber, who was touted consistently as America’s real “darling”. Unlike Douglas, Wieber was framed as effortless and destined to win. But when she failed, the commentators showered reports with endless, acceptable excuses as to why and how she wasn’t performing up to par.
I almost spit out my smoothie when a news report said, “the world watched in shock as Wieber shed heart-wrenching tears—she wouldn’t be competing in the all-around competition.” NOT. I wasn’t stunting Jordan Wieber, and I question what world that, that reporter belongs to—perhaps white Suburbia that orbits around asinine.
But the one-sided outrage of the individual finals being Wieber-less went as far as an NBC gymnastic commentator stating later that he thought Olympic officials should reassess the rules of how many people can qualify. I have seen this strategy repeated when certain people lose at a game of which they created the rules—they simply change them when they are no longer the game-changers.
And although Gabby scored highest during the team finals, it was projected that Wieber’s leadership and emotionally evolved, selflessness is what actually got the job done for the win.
Even up until the final event leading to Gabby’s individual gold, while the world was cheering, the privileged and supremacist eye kept disbelieving. When Gabby won, it was so antithetical for the biased commentators who were edging for any white girl to win by the end, that folks took to twitter and Facebook to celebrate what wasn’t being acknowledged on air.
So uncomfortable with Gabby’s domination and being the current face that represents the United States as a champion, those who have absorbed the ideologies of privilege and supremacy threw jabs like the alleged “ill-timed’ monkey commercial following the ceremony.
It is as if Gabby is like Obama in 2008.The results are in, and they will never admit, that they were all dead ass wrong, upstaged by and underdog and still soak in their racism.