2012 London Olympics Race-Fail Roundup

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Unfortunately Douglas’s mother, Valerie Hawkins, who was publicly humiliated when not only her turbulent financial history was reported, her impending divorce and the rumours that Douglas’s father is an ‘absentee parent’ (he is actually a staff sergeant in the Air National Guard deployed overseas) raised another bone of contention that some commenters had previously noted. How is a Black girl in a predominately White sport going to represent Black womanhood? Was she somehow tainted? While training in Iowa, Douglas lives with a white host family, which, according to her mother, is why her hair might not look as some would like it to be:

"She lives with a white host family and they don’t know anything about taking care of her hair," said Hawkins. "And there’s no black salons in their area [in Iowa] –- not one. We had to work really hard to find a stylist to come and do her hair."

Douglas wasn’t the only Black athlete to be criticized. Elated after her first Gold in women’s individual tennis, Serena Williams was judged after her ‘Crip Walk’ which, as Yahoo Sports asserts, is a “short dance move popularized by gang members in her hometown of Compton.” It is also very common in satirical west-coast hip-hop videos, and to viewers who saw the humorin her silliness. However, blogger Debbie Shlusselfeels that there is a conspiracy going on - that Williams was glorifying gang violence!:

But I’ll tell you what you won’t see these same Black Twitter users attacking: Serena Williams very unclassy “Crip Walk”–a dance done by Crip gang members, er . . . I mean, “gangstaz.” Yup, that’s what we need representing America, a Gold Medalist who, upon winning, glorifies hardened criminals who murder each other–and innocent Americans–for sport.

 

Even popular veteran commentator, NBC’s Matt Lauer’s wasn’t without a flub. He called Meredith Viera an 'Indian-Giver' after she attempted to take back a pair of Stella McCartney Olympic panties she handed to him. The National Congress of Indian Americans responded with this:

Mr. Lauer’s misinformed choice of words reinforces archaic and hurtful racial stereotypes that date back to colonial America. Early commerce between tribal nations and colonial settlers required the value of goods exchanged to be of equal or greater value, or the trade was not deemed acceptable. Some colonial traders who did not uphold this ethic used this phrase to discredit tribal nations and Native traders. Now, the pejorative phrase has become associated with a person who takes back a gift. This misrepresents the original and modern cultural values of Native Americans, based on fair trade, sharing, and empowering those around them.

 

What is supposed to be an exciting and enjoyable experience, not just for viewers but also for competitors, The 2012 London Olympics has turned out to reflect the ugly realities that, in a perfect world, it would be nice if we could put them aside for two weeks. Leave your thoughts in the comments.

UPDATE: My apologies, I did not mention the number of controversies surrounding the Chinese athletes at the games. Please read blogger Sarah Keenan's report. 

Contributing Editor - Race, Ethnicity & Culture

Blog: Writing is Fighting: www.lainad.typepad.com

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