In the midst of all of the recent racial tensions in the U.S, the Olympic Games provides a momentary escape from reality. It unites citizens of countries and creates a reason for pride and solidarity among Americans regardless of race, gender, etc. It gives us a reason to come together to root for a common goal: to prove that America is the most athletic nation in the world.
In the 2016 Rio Olympics, African-Americans have been dominating in all arenas, even the ones that are usually predominantly white. Records are being broken left and right and there are still plenty of competitions left and more opportunities for history to be made. Some of the most notable victories come from gymnastics, swimming, fencing, and boxing.
In gymnastics, Simone Biles has already won three gold medals and is the first woman to win the world championships for three consecutive years. In swimming, Simone Manuel became the first African American woman to win a gold medal in an individual swimming event; she has two gold medals so far. Michelle Carter is the first woman to win a gold medal in the women’s shot put for track and field. Not only are all of these women making black history, but they are also making history as women and as Americans.
There are also a few black men on the brink of making history in these Olympics. Darly D. Homer is the first American to win the silver medal in men’s sabre fencing in 112 years. In addition, Shakur Stevenson is on the path to winning a gold medal in men’s boxing after 12 years.
Despite all of the notable contributions African-americans are making for the U.S in these Olympics, the racially charged backlash they receive remind us of our place in American society. For example, when the world discovered that Simone Biles was the best when it came to gymnastics, her success was overshadowed by the story of her being abandoned by her biological father and drug-addicted mother. There was a heavy focus on the point that her adoptive parents were not her “real parents”. In addition, there was a headline for a newspaper that was titled, ‘Olympics: Michael Phelps shares historic night with African-American,’ referring to the night Simone Manuel and Michael Phelps both made history.
Black athletes bringing home victories for the U.S stems all the way to before the civil rights era with athletes like Jesse Owens and Carl Lewis. Black people continue to be celebrated when it comes to athletics, music, and pop culture. However, every time I turn on the television to see another unjustified killing of a black person, I realize that us being great is still not enough. As we continue to watch these Olympic games and black Americans proudly showing off the U.S flag after a victory, the famous Kennedy quote, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country?” keeps coming to mind. In light of these Olympic games, I believe it is time for us to start asking what our country can do for us, NOT what we can do for our country.