Wednesday, August 29, 2012

If the grownups didn't see the black girl get bullied, did it really happen?

So, there's something you should know about black people. Especially young black teenage girls who happen to be Olympians.  They're liars.. That's right.  If they say that they were bullied and teased and called a slave, they're just making it up.  Apparently for fun.. At least that's the case if you believe the defensive comments made by those who ran the gym where Gabrielle Douglas (she prefers it over being called Gabby) got her start before heading out to Iowa to train there instead at the age of 14.

Gabrielle appeared on Oprah's Next Chapter recently, and shared what it was like to train in an environment of verbal attacks and isolation she felt was due to her race.  I read this story and was incensed.
The response of the former coaches was one of denial, saying things like "Gabby was never a victim", and "I never once heard her complain about girls being mean.."   Are they serious?

Anyone out there ever been bullied as a kid? So tell me, how many of you just marched right on up to a teacher or coach to tell them your sad tale of being picked on by fellow students, complete with names?  If you did,  how did that go?    Did those bad kids see the error of their ways and just embrace you with all kinds of love and apology?  No?  I didn't think so.

Val, you seem a bit hot over this.  Yes, yes I am.   One of those coaches expressed that Gabrielle's story is sickening.  Really? You know what I think is sickening?  These so-called adults attacking a sixteen year old girl and daring to say her experience of bigotry and pain is not true. I thought she handled the interview with class and dignity. She didn't name names, she didn't say anything publicly about the coaches themselves.
Just who do they think they are?

In a previous post, I shared a bit about my experience of being one of very few blacks in a nearly all white Midwestern middle school.  I never said anything about what I was experiencing either. My parents new nothing of what I was going through until I was an adult, and even then, I didn't go into all the details.  That was a painful time and I lived for Fridays.

Now, most often kids aren't going to bully each other within the eye and earshot of an adult, so I can't understand why these coaches are reacting the way that they are. Young girls can be pretty mean and sneaky.   But, if they did witness what was going on and did nothing to stop it, well maybe this is their guilt talking. That and not wanting their gym to look bad. Too late. Their reaction has taken care of that.

I applaud Gabrielle for being upfront about her experience and how she's risen above it. She seems mature beyond her years. A maturity that appears to be lacking back at the old gym..

What do you think? Am I getting too emotional about this?  Do you think that a young person of color would go out of their way to make up stories of racial slurs and bigotry for the fun of it?


  1. When I was younger than I am now (thought I won't say exactly how many years ago that was... ;-)) I went to a boxing gym to get in shape. Boxing is by far the best workout I've ever experienced.

    I was fat. Plain and simple. And, I was working my way to changing that. A couple of teenage girls started at the club, and were clearly there more to meet boys than they were to exercise. Even though I was a young adult, when they started to bully me I really wasn't sure what to do. They said mean things under their breath as I jogged by, would point at me while they were talking maliciously in the corner, and even went so far as to take pics of me skipping with their cell phones to post on facebook to mock me. I never said anything to anyone, for months, even my husband.

    One day, I snapped. I had enough and started yelling at the girls, putting them in their place as it were. Everyone was surprised by the bullying I'd been enduring. The coaches' reactions were swift - the girls were kicked out of the gym that day and banned from ever coming back.

    What I know from that experience (and many more in my younger days) is that bullying isn't just about the color of your skin - it's about being too fat, too skinny, too short, too tall, not wearing the right clothes, or anything else that can be singled out as being different.

    I also know that the victims rarely, if ever, speak up about it. And when they do, they are usually ignored, brushed off, or told they are making it up and that it can't be that bad. And, as adults, particularly as adults who have experienced this kind of abuse, we have a moral obligation to stand up in support of bullying victims and support them in sharing their stories and finding a way to come to peace within themselves with their experiences. As a society, we have a moral responsibility to put an end to bullying once and for all.

    That's a long way of saying no, I don't think you're overreacting :-D.


  2. Wow Rachel! I am so sorry you endured that. Good for you standing up to them! And good for those coaches in taking care of the problem the way that they did. I agree, kids will often bully anyone for any reason. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. :-)

  3. No, you are not too emotional. When I was 8 years old, we moved from the South Bronx where we were pretty much the only white family but where no one, as I recall, talked or cared about race or ethnicity, to a neighborhood that was all white, predominately Italian and Irish. We were now the only Jewish family and we were unwanted.

    In our first week there, my sister's friends from our old neighborhood came to visit and were beaten up and had their bikes stolen. I asked my mother why that happened. I was told our old friends were not welcome in this neighborhood. An interracial couple moved in to a house down the block and had their house actually burned down.

    The other kids on the block were mean to me, asking me questions about being Israeli (which I'm not but of course, aren't being Jewish and Israeli the same thing?) like "are you hairy all over," "did you kill Jesus?"

    My parents sent me to a day camp that opened in a beautiful neighborhood. Again most of the kids were Italian. I was bullied about being Jewish every single day. One day I went into the locker room to find my belongings destroyed and covered with swastikas.

    I NEVER told anyone, not at camp, not at home. I tried to act like nothing ever happened. I invented reasons to not go so often (I was sick, I was bored there) but I never confronted my bulliers and I never told anyone. That's typical for victims. That's what bullies count on and I now believe that had I told someone, it would have been trivialized.

    Almost forty years later, the experience still hurts me, still angers me and sadly, still makes me feel bad about myself. But no one can tell me it didn't happen.

    And if people think getting emotional about experiences like that is overreacting, they are the ones with the problem.

    1. Rhea my heart goes out to you! Like you said, it's hard for victims to speak out, especially when they're kids, because they believe it will make things worse or others just won't believe them.
      Thanks so much for sharing your story.