Like countless other people across the globe, I love the Olympic Games. There is just something about cheering on my fellow Americans to their quest for gold that makes me proud. As an African-American, it is one of the few times in my life where my race fades to the background and my nationality–my Americanness–becomes most important. Yet, as I was watching the coverage of the women’s gymnastics competition, I was quickly reminded why my blackness is so much more salient.
Sixteen-year-old Gabby Douglas made history as she twirled her way to being the first African-American to win gold in the individual all-around competition. As a black woman and mother, I was so proud of our beautiful “flying squirrel.” Yet, I am ashamed to admit that as a sociologist and race scholar, one of my first thoughts as I watched Gabby sing the national anthem on the winner’s podium was, “Too bad there was no one in London who could do her hair…”