Black American Female Olympians Break Barriers in 2012

Gabby Douglas

One area where racism stubbornly abides is sports. Even before and after to the exhibition of “Aryan superiority” that was turned upside down by Jessie Owens during the 1936 Olympics, whites had touted the athletic dominance of caucasians over the frail, disease ridden black body. This may seem ridiculous to modern defenders of black athletic superiority, yet this recent inflammatory ideology is usually connected with claims of black primitivism and the intellectual inferiority of people of African decent. Instead of  studying the combination of individual genetics, hard work, opportunity and resources to that support black athletic achievement, some still prefer to rely on racist reasoning to explain the success of black athletes.

Women athletes have not had an easy path either. In the early years of the modern Olympics, women were not well represented. Women participated for the first time at the 1900 Paris Games with the inclusion of women’s events in lawn tennis and golf. Women’s athletics and gymnastics debuted at the 1928 Olympics. The implementation of Title 9 in 1972, provided American women with the opportunities and resources to compete in the Olympics on a much wider basis. In 2012, women’s boxing was introduced, resulting in no remaining sports that do not include events for women. Even Muslim women are experiencing a growing inclusion as  three Islamic countries (Qatar, Brunei, and Saudi Arabia) sent female athletes to the 2012 games.

Even though African American women shoulder both racial and gender burdens, they have made amazing strides in events that have been seen previously as “white” or “male” events. These accomplishments has not come without criticism. Although Althea Gibson broke the race barrier in professional tennis in 1947,  Olympic medalists and tennis superstars

Venus and Serena Williams

Venus and Serena Williams face criticism about their bodies, playing styles and femininity. Gabby Douglas has won two gold medals at the 2012 Olympics. She competed in all four events, garnered 33% of points that led Team USA to the gold and wiped out the Russian competition to win the top spot in the Women’s All Around competition. 16 year old Gabby left her family and friends in Virginia Beach to train in Iowa with Olympic coach Liang Chow. Her mother sold her jewelry and worked overtime to finance Gabby’s training and lodging. Instead of congratulating the young phenomenon on her historic accomplishment, internet troll took to the twitterosphere with comments about her hair!

Lia Neal

The numerous accomplishments of other black female Olympic pioneers have been marginalized by the media. Swimmer Lia Nealwon the  bronze medal in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay and also helped set a new U.S. record in the event. Neal, who is also a spokes woman for an organization that introduces children of color to swimming and water safety, has received very little press coverage as the second black woman to qualify for the U. S. Olympic Swim Team. She is only 17 years old and a high school senior. I expect Ms. Neal will be harder to ignore in 2016.

Paige McPherson

 Paige McPherson 21, defeated 2004 silver medalist, Nia Abdallah, to earn a spot on the 2012 Taekwondo Olympic Team. Paige, who attends Miami Dade College was raised in Sturgis, South Dakota in a multi-ethnic family of adopted children. Paige will begin competing on August 10th. 

Many would be suprised to know that black women have a long history in the elite sport of fencing.

Nzingha Prescod

Nzingha Prescod, an economics major at Columbia University, follows in the footsteps of Nikki Franke, a member of the 1976 and 1980 U.S. Olympic fencing teams by scoring a berth on the 2012 team. The team, the youngest in American Olympic history placed sixth in team competition but coach but Coach Amgad Khazbak  said he is looking forward to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games where he believes Team USA could be a contender for the gold. So next time moron spouts nonsense about the athletic superiority of certain racial groups or gender tell them about achievements these barrier breaking ladies!

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One response to “Black American Female Olympians Break Barriers in 2012”

  1. mary burrell says :

    Well African Americans showed the world we are good at fencing,swimming, and gymnastics. We can do other things than whats expected like track and field. we are breaking lots of sterotypes. Gabby Douglas is amazing.

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