The Miseducation of Gabby Douglas

Man, what a difference time makes.

Four years ago Gabby Douglas was the apple of America’s eye, she stole our hearts while she crushed the competition in London. Her story was compelling, she was elegant and represented America with class.

Now, she’s been thrown aside like an old paper.

The scrutiny that Douglas has received during the Rio Olympics is unfair and honestly, unreasonable. Every mannerism has been put under a microscope. Everything from not putting her hand over her heart to not seeming excited for her teammates. I’m waiting for a report to surface criticizing her for not tying her shoe laces.  

Then, the criticism of her hair. It’s amazing how black women are constantly scrutinized for their hair while everyone else tries their hardest to copy it. That’s a story for another time, though.  

With everything that Gabby is going through I hope Simone Biles is paying attention.

You know Simone, right? She’s the girl killing every gymnastics event that Rio has to offer. She’s “taken” Gabby’s place and America can’t get enough of her.

Stop me when this story sounds familiar.

If Gabby’s story has told us anything it’s that America will throw Simone aside as soon as the next talented gymnast comes and tears the floor up.  

Even with all the hurtful bombs that have been hurled in her direction Douglas has been a class act. To be 20 it’s easy to see that she’s mature beyond her years. I know a 20 year old me would have some harsh words for critics but Gabby keeps her cool.

In a society where black people are told to be quiet, Gabby’s #blackgirlmagic is still front and center; giving black girls a mountain to shout from.

As always, thanks for reading.

Apple of our Eye

The Olympics are underway.

I, like many of you, have been glued to the television watching athletes who have spent years training for this one moment. We cant turn our eyes away from the number of events that we aren’t used to watching. America is dominating the Olympics but with so many repping the red, white, and blue how does one stand out? As an American Olympian how do you catch America’s eye and possibly become a darling?

Listen up, athletes. I’m going to tell you.

Number One: be passionate. American loves its sports, no matter what it is. As long as you’re doing something on behalf of the USA then you’re automatically going to have a following. A way to make that following larger is to show emotion. We want our athletes to care, and show us they care. Wear your heart on your sleeve but don’t let it lead to your downfall. That’s not a good thing.

Number Two: have flair. This goes in with passion. Athletes with flair (swagger) jump off the screen. Our eyes are immediately drawn to the confident athlete. It’s just like all other walks of life, confidence is key.

Number Three: identify, and defeat, the “bad guy” There’s nothing more American than taking down what’s perceived as the bad guy. The Miracle on Ice is one of the greatest moments in Olympic history because we took down the Soviet Union. The Olympics always have a way of reflecting the current state of the world. Using that to your advantage will give you a leg up in the states.

Number Four: WIN! This is most important. Winning a gold medal puts you in a class that the majority of Americans will never reach. A royalty that can never be taken away. Dominating your way to victory is better but gold is gold no matter the margin of victory.

That’s an easy, four step guide on how to stand out during the Olympics. Now go out there and win one for Old Glory. USA USA USA USA!

As always, thanks for reading.

The Life and Times

We’re getting serious af this week. If that’s not your lane then I understand, I promise I’ll bring some of the usual heat next week.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed but it’s election season. Every single time I log onto Facebook it’s a meme of one party dissing another or someone demeaning someone for something….it’s exhausting.

One of the most frustrating things about this election season is the stance on police brutality within the black community. I, as a black man, am petrified by what’s going on around me. Seeing fellow men of color being shot for virtually nothing puts me on edge everyday.

Side bar: please, don’t come running in my mentions with “black on black crime” retorts. It’s played out and has no relevance to the issue at hand. You’re just a troll trying to deflect what’s going on. Go back to your bridge.  

Back to the topic, being a black man in America today is being in a constant state of fear and being feared. That at any moment your life can take a dark, twisted turn for the absolute worst. All because of the melanin in your skin.  

For those screaming, “not all cops are bad.” I agree, but please see the side bar written earlier.

I’m sure many of you reading this are saying that it’s an exaggeration. Life can’t be that hard for black men and I’m being dramatic. Get over it, slavery and racism are over. (that’s my favorite line ever.)

Allow me to tell you a story or two.

I used to live in Central Virginia, one of the prettiest places on earth. We lived at the foot of a mountain and each season was breathtaking. One fall evening my girlfriend, my sister, my brother-in-law, and myself wanted to try a BBQ spot that was about a mile away from our apartment. This place was tucked between a few high class restaurants and a coffee shop. While walking to the spot we had to pass a really nice, and very expensive Italian restaurant. As we got closer I started to see “the fear”. An older white couple saw us walking and immediately crossed the street. The patrons in the restaurant window stared at us and did everything but scream, “we don’t carry cash!” as we walked by. Even the valet guys tightened up, their face was covered in terror. I’ve seen “the fear” before but never at this magnitude. After paying for our meals we walked back to my car and left. As we went up the hill to leave there was a police cruiser parked and waiting. He wasn’t there before and he didn’t pull us over but I had a feeling someone called the officer once we walked by. So many emotions ran through my system: fear, anger, disgust, and even embarrassment. Why are these people so afraid of us? What did we do to harm them? We just wanted some bbq, that’s all.

The irony? That restaurant was in the middle of a historic black neighborhood…..    

That’s the night I decided to leave that area once our lease was up.

That experience isn’t only limited to me. Everyday thousands of black men have to look “the fear” in the eye and hope they can live to tell the story. It’s not an exaggeration and it’s not paranoia. Black men are feared more than an Adam Sandler movie. We’re seen as a real life horror entity that only exists to destroy. There is no age minimum for this fear; young black boys are also seen in the same light as men.

I have two younger male cousins that are in college. Both are in their early twenties and like doing things that college kids do. One is your normal size guy, nothing intimidating. The other plays collegiate football, he’s huge in every sense of the word. Earlier this summer I had to send them a message, a text that broke my heart. I had to tell them that if they are encountered by police and feel as if they’re being harassed then just comply and ask for their card or badge number. Asked to be cuffed so that they won’t be accused of reaching. I told them just to survive. A dead man can’t tell his side of the story.

That is a reality that’s all too familiar for black families. My father has had that conversation with me many times and I’m sure I’ll have that talk with my children one day. I didn’t get it as a kid but now, as an adult, I understand and thank my father for planting that seed of awareness.

This isn’t meant to for pity or to guilt anyone for anything. I wrote this to give a glimpse to what it’s like being black in America. The daily struggle of keeping your sanity while looking over your shoulder. The fear that a miscommunication with a public servant could lead to your death. The sad part is that there are far more worse stories than that.

The saddest part is that as hard as it is being a black man in America it’s ten times harder being a black woman. That requires a strength that I could never achieve or even put into words.

As always, thanks for reading.