Gabby Douglas, the 20-year-old, three-time gold medalist, has received a lot of hate at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Although the hate that she has received is not new and is in fact something that she has faced her entire career, it appears to have been taken to a whole new level.
Many people on social media accounts have begun criticizing Douglas for her hair or “lack of edges,” a topic that, unfortunately, has become more popular than her amazing talents as a gymnast. Why is it that someone’s hair can overshadow the fact that a young Black woman has made history and continues to serve as a role model for young Black girls all over the world? Why is that Gabby Douglas has become known for her choice of hairstyle and not the three gold medals under her belt?
Another issue that has social media fired up is Douglas’ choice to not place her hand over her heart when the national anthem was played, during her team medal ceremony. To be clear, Americans are not required to place their hands over their hearts during the national anthem, nor should an individual be condemned if he or she chooses not to do so. In fact, many athletes do not place their hands over their hearts during the national anthem, and once again, Gabby Douglas should not be singled out. Perhaps Douglas’ arm was sore. Perhaps she doesn’t respect the current state of America, was daydreaming or just simply didn’t feel like doing it. Whatever the reason, she should not have to explain it to anyone or justify her reason for not doing so; she is a rights-bearing citizen like the rest of us.
I imagine that as an athlete it is very difficult to adopt the joyful tone of the Olympic Games when every action that you take is met with some kind of hate. Douglas has even had to take a break from social media because of all the hate that she has consistently received on Instagram and other social media platforms. Thus, we cannot expect her to be as cheery as her teammates and should understand when we see a young Black girl trying to be strong as she pushes through the negativity that is inflicted upon her. Beyond being a gymnast, Gabby Douglas is also just a young Black woman, a member of the most oppressed demographic in America. Being on a balance beam or having millions of followers on Twitter doesn’t make it any easier.