Ugly America rears its head with Olympic coverage — Mel Reeves


Like referees who bring attention to themselves, the U.S. big-business press, along with the color commentators with their unbalanced, intrusive and unfavorable coverage of African and AfricanAmerican athletes during the London Olympics,brought shame upon themselves and their craft. Truth is, they can’t help themselves; many are the beneficiaries of an uneven playing field themselves.

Many of them went to the best schools and were afforded the best opportunities, yet they allow themselves to believe the worst propaganda and narratives about people of color. The proof of this was in the coverage.

These Olympics were also a stage for U.S. propaganda. When Uganda was mentioned, the press chose to talk about Idi Amin rather than the colonial rampage that left the country ripped off, unstable, and open to despots. When the Grenadian athlete Kirani James was mentioned, they repeated the lie that the U.S. had liberated Grenada when in fact they worked with criminals to overthrow the elected government of Maurice Bishop.

And did someone really ask Gabrielle Douglas about her mother filing for bankruptcy?

Gabby Douglas had her mother’s finances brought up needlessly, and of course so did Ryan Lochte, the swimmer whose parents’ foreclosure problem was trumpeted. The big-business media paraded these folks’ pain about like it was sport.

Demonstrating the bankruptcy and inhumanity of Americana, none of these highly educated but morally illiterate folks thought to suggest that we raise money to help our fellow countrymen. Instead they made spectacles of themselves with their innuendo and unnecessary criticism and scrutiny.

Speaking of Douglas, most of us didn’t really know she was on the team because of all the emphasis on her teammates, especially Jordyn Wieber. And incidentally, Gabrielle had in fact had some success earlier — she had taken home a few prizes as well. But commentators constantly  harped on whether she would be able to face the pressure and consistently talked about her inconsistency.

We got it. Asshe was winning the overall women’s individual competition, they could barely get a positive word in. I started wondering if the announcers were from the same country as Douglas.

And her hair was unkempt? Really, ya’ll?

Media and commentators were clearly sticking to the Black propaganda playbook when they tried to say that Gabrielle’s father had abandoned the family. Turns out he was serving his country in the military. Yes, his country. Ah, what a country to serve! You serve it and for your trouble it tries to crap on you and your kid.

Ah, what a country to serve! Gabrielle represented it well, and its media tries to make her and her family look bad.

And then ya’ll told the press about the crip walk. Now they are talking about Serena Williams doing a gangster dance. No, what Serena did — and one writer got it right — was to subtly acknowledge she hasn’t forgotten where she has come from. It was a wave to her Compton roots.

Truth is, she could have done the Charleston and it wouldn’t have mattered. Negro celebration, Negro being, Negro essence, Negro certitude, Negro excellence are not to be flaunted. It ain’t your world!

But some silly Negroes find a way to agree with their enemies. As hard as it was to get where Serena has gotten and to overcome the hurdles and roadblocks and insults she and her sister have had to endure, she has a right to celebrate. Dance, Serena, dance.

When told she was being criticized for dancing, she said, “I don’t care,” and she shouldn’t. Dance Serena, dance. If it appears I exaggerate about it not being okay for Negroes to dance, tell me why Misty May-Treanor’s partner did a jig in the sand after her victory and not a word has been said.

And poor Lolo Jones — I used to wonder if she considers herself mixed-race or Black. She probably knows now that she is considered Black. The insensitive, poorly timed, badly researched, fifth-grader hack-job done by the apparently crack-influenced Jeré Longman of the New York Times clearly rattled her, coming two days before her race. I think it may have cost her a medal.

Jeré, if you thought Ms. Jones was being an “uppity ni**er,” why didn’t you have the decency to let her at least represent the country to the best of her ability first? That fool didn’t even know that first you use them, then you dump on them.

Simply put, failure to have compassion for a young woman who spent most of her childhood on the streets and in homeless shelters, who sometimes had to steal frozen food dinners to eat, borders on heartlessness to the highest degree. Hers is a story of triumph over adversity, and it also serves as evidence of a country much more unfair and much less compassionate than we think we are.

Imagine that, human beings living on the street and in the U.S.!

Ironically, while the big business media went looking for trashy back stories they could print, the back story was right in front of them all the time. Why are Olympic athletes’ families facing foreclosure and bankruptcy? Why did Lolo Jones live on the street? Why didn’t her country think her important enough to shelter her?

Moreover, the story is the games and the tremendous sacrifice that these young people make to get there. Everything else is, in a word, superfluous.

Mel Reeves welcomes reader responses to