The Olympics: A Time Where Race Doesn’t Matter…Or Does it?

Wow, can you believe that we actually were alive to witness some of the greatest and most decorated Olympians of all time at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio?JBONEY olympics

This past Sunday, August 21, the closing ceremonies for the 2016 Summer Olympics were held. This Summer Olympics was one of the most exciting that I have ever witnessed. Team USA dominated the 2016 Rio Olympics, finishing with a total of 121 medals.

These Olympic athletes earned the right to represent the United States, and have their talent and skills displayed for the entire world to see on the grandest stage of their respective sport or event.

“The Star-Spangled Banner” is the official national anthem and tune played at the raising of the U.S. flag. When any of our American athletes win a Gold medal in any Olympic competition, after having beaten the best of the best from countries all over the world, they get to stand at the top of the podium and see the American flag raised, all while singing along to the tune of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

At the moment the Gold medal is placed around the neck of one of our Olympic athletes, “The Star-Spangled Banner” begins to play, and a sense of pride comes over us here in America knowing that someone from the United States represented us well and was victorious in the process.

Have you ever paid attention to the lyrics that make up “The Star-Spangled Banner,” written by Frances Scott Key in 1814? Hearing the music and singing the lyrics, always makes me feel so proud.

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light, what so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming, whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight, o’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming? And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Again, it gives me a sense of pride whenever one of my fellow Americans experiences success on the world stage and represents the United States in competition. I absolutely love hearing “The Star-Spangled Banner” played after any of our American athletes achieved greatness by winning a Gold medal and finishing Number one in their respective event or competition. I love cheering for the United States of America.

Come to think about it, I get the same sense of pride and cheer for every Olympic athlete from the United States who competes in any Olympic sport, whether they win or not. It doesn’t matter to me if the Olympian is Black or White; Asian or Hispanic; male or female; short or tall; to me, they are all Americans and they are all worthy of my support and respect.

This brings me to a primary issue that I want to address. As we know, it’s 2016, and you would have thought America would have dealt with the issue of racism and White privilege by now, but that has not been the case. As we have witnessed much of the media scrutiny and social media attacks, surrounding Black Olympians like gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas -attacks that have been completely over-the-top and unwarranted – I remain cognizant of the true racial climate that still exists here in the United States.

Many non-Blacks, who temporarily praised and applauded Douglas for her Olympic achievements, successes, bravery and valor, were many of the same people who turned on her and vilified her in some of the worst ways you could imagine. Douglas was denigrated, disrespected and had her patriotism called into question because she didn’t place her hand over her heart while the “Star-Spangled Banner” played, and because she was accused of not supporting her fellow teammates who edged her out in the Individual All-Around finals. I remember during the 2012 Olympics, Fox News even had people on their network saying that Douglas’ outfit didn’t appear to be patriotic enough.

Why did this Black athlete deserve such scrutiny back home from her fellow American citizens?

Enough is enough!

I get so happy when the Olympics roll around every 4 years and I get to cheer for American athletes, win or lose. Now that these Olympic games are over, however, I can only hope that the same enthusiasm that people had, while seemingly turning a blind eye to race, and hopefully rooting for all American athletes at the Olympic Games, can now carry over to having Americans deal with racism in this country.

We must adopt the same spirit that we have when we root for Americans during the Olympics. We need to adopt the same pride and feeling that we get when we all stand at attention while listening to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” as it is played during the Olympics, or wherever we hear it in America.

I will take you a step further. Let’s go down memory lane and reminisce about the powerful and soul-stirring rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” performed by Whitney Houston prior to the start of Super Bowl XXV, which was held at Tampa Stadium in Tampa, Florida, in 1991.

I want to put this in context, because Super Bowl XXV took place 10 days during the height of the Persian Gulf War and there was such a strong sense of pride and patriotism as Houston sung.

Throughout Houston’s performance, you saw people of all races in the stands and on the field waving their American flags and singing along with Houston. As Houston brought her rendition to a close, four F-16 fighter jets flew over the stadium and everyone cheered enthusiastically. It was powerful.

At that very moment, it didn’t matter what race we all were, we were all proud American citizens.

We were all American citizens who realized we were all living in the greatest country in the world. We were all American citizens who took comfort in knowing that our bravest men and women of the military were overseas representing their country and keeping us safe from our enemies – both foreign and domestic. We were all American citizens!

It’s a shame that Black people can go to war and die for this country, as well as go to the Olympics to compete for this country, but then get treated as if their accomplishments or contributions don’t matter or are not as significant because they are Black. Even when we represent America abroad, Black people still often get treated like second-class citizens in the confines of their own country, and this must stop.

As Americans, this has to stop and we must embrace the Olympic spirit at all times when it comes to being one in this country, and not just every time the Summer or Winter Olympics roll around or “The Star-Spangled Banner” is played either. If we really are the “United” States of America, we must commit to dealing with racism and truly become one. I hope to celebrate that success someday.

Jeffrey L. Boney serves as Associate Editor and is an award-winning journalist for the Houston Forward Times newspaper. Jeffrey is a frequent contributor on the Nancy Grace Show and has a daily radio talk show called Real Talk with Jeffrey L. Boney. He is a Next Generation Project Fellow, dynamic, international speaker, experienced entrepreneur, business development strategist and Founder/CEO of the Texas Business Alliance. If you would like to request Jeffrey as a speaker, you can reach him at jboney1@forwardtimes.com