White Thug Lochte, Super-Human Gabby Douglas, and the Dominant Narrative at the Rio Olympics

For this blog post, we had the amazing Bianca “Call me Beyonce” Bellot write her thoughts. Bianca, who was a member of our SAHE cohort, is one of the wokest people we know, and we’re so excited for you all to read her piece! 

The Olympic Games in Rio were packed with both sexism and racism. As a queer woman of color, I felt both excited to watch the games unfold, and I had a shield up for good reason. I sat with my computer, angered as I read the initial coverage on white thug Lochte’s fake robbery. I grew angrier when the media laughed at his criminal activity and overt lies. And I really lost it when 20 year old, three-time Olympic gold medalist, Gabby Douglas, was made to apologize for not smiling enough.

I am tired of entitled straight white men stealing the spotlight in sports. I am also tired of women of color being held to different standards and expectations in U.S. society, and in the Olympic arena. So to give credit where it is due, Gabby Douglas is an incredible super-human gymnast. She is unapologetically beautiful. She is unapologetically strong. She has been on the U.S.A national gymnastics team since she was 13, has three Olympic gold medals, three world championship medals, and several national medals. I am tired of journalists critiquing her African American hair and make-up and distracting the larger audience from her accomplishments. I am tired of the requests for her to apologize.

For those who are not bothered, you are not paying attention. Let me be real, white privilege is when a white male enters a foreign country, kicks down a bathroom door in a gas station, pisses all over the place, breaks the soap dispenser, gets into a belligerent fight with a security officer, attempts to leave without paying for the damage, and creates a detailed story about being robbed at gunpoint. An Olympic spokesperson (Mario Andrada) referred to Lochte as a kid who made a mistake. No.  Lochte is a grown 32 year old man. If Gabby needs to smile more, Lochte has a lot of work to do.

Lochte will not be held accountable. He is busy tweeting about what color he should dye his hair next. In his less than weak apology, he did not apologize for his actions. Lochte referenced his experience as “traumatic” and said he was sorry for taking attention from other athletes. I am not okay with his criminal behaviors, sappy story, and all the privilege that will afford him to go on and live a luscious life.

Racism is when Gabby Douglas did not put her hand over her heart during the national anthem and is ridiculed, bullied, and put to shame in casual conversations and in the wide-spread media. She needed to publicly apologize for being perceived as jealous of her teammates. Her apology may have saved her fame as some viewers felt she owed it to her country. White privilege is when two white male Olympic shot-putters (Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovaks) also did not put their hands over their hearts during the national anthem, and no one batted an eyelash. No one noticed. People were waiting for Gabby to make a mistake and they found an unreasonable opportunity to put her down instead of celebrating her successes. This is not a person of color’s issue. This is not a woman’s issue. This is everyone’s issue.

While I struggle to understand ways we can dismantle a long standing history of racism and sexism in this country, I believe we need to stop being complacent. I do not want to hear another excuse for a white man acting thoughtless or criminal, unless that is a set standard for all. I will not laugh at Lochte’s “childish” behaviors. I cannot stand watching people of color be torn apart as we inch towards success, while the stories of white individuals are consistently celebrated. This is everyone’s issue.

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