Don’t you just love the Olympics! This is societies’ collective “Kumbaya – Can’t we all just get along” moment. But it feels like a new event has been added, the “Shade Throw”. I’m not talking about having a lively discussion about a race or an event. It’s more than that. It seems like personally attacking people has become a sport. We hold the athletes to unrealistic standards and throw shade when we don’t feel that they have met our expectations. So now, instead of just enjoying the games we feel it is our duty to bully and shame people that we don’t even know and probably will never meet.
People are still discussing the Women’s 400m Finals and whether or not Allyson Felix was robbed because Shaunae Miller dove or fell across the finish line and won the gold medal. But whatever your thoughts about the race, you don’t have to personally attack the athletes.
It is possible to disagree without being disagreeable and mean.
Now I love a good debate. I will sometimes take the opposing side of an issue just to keep the conversation going. But while engaging in lively discussions, we can’t throw civility out the window. I know, I know; celebrities, athletes included, live in a bubble. And maybe they should expect the scrutiny that they get but that doesn’t make it any less painful. We can’t forget that they are human and have feelings just like the rest of us.
Can you image how you would feel if some of the things that you read online were said about you?
I am still trying to understand why as a society we feel the need to point out the perceived flaws of others. Maybe it speaks to some insecurity that we have. I don’t know. But the next time I catch myself starting to throw shade at someone, I plan to check myself. I’ll ask myself these three questions:
Does being relatively anonymous give me cover to be mean?
Gabby Douglas was brought to tears because of remarks about her hair, her patriotism and the perceived lack of support for her teammates. She was already having a challenging time and the internet literally poured salt into an open wound. And this is not the first time we have seen this level of meanness. In 2012, hair was the talk of social media whether it was Gabby’s edges or Kellie Wells blue streak. The funny thing is while we were throwing shade, they were taking medals home and checks to the bank. If you are about to post something about anyone that you would not have the courage to say to their face, maybe that’s something you shouldn’t post. There is no rule that says we have to comment on everything that shows up in our news feed.
Do I hold other people to a high standard but expect grace for myself?
You know how we do. We make a mistake, learn from it and call it growth. But Lawd don’t let anyone else mess up, especially if it’s in public. We will hold it over their heads for the rest of their life. Never mind the fact that they too have changed. And yes, I’m talking about Justin Gatlin. The man has done everything he can to recover from a lapse in judgement 12 years ago and yet every time he puts on his spikes, someone feels the need to bring it up. We are all flawed. Nobody is perfect. But as we walk out our imperfections, we must be willing to extend the same grace that we expect to receive. Because in this life, you will reap what you sow. Maybe the reason that we have so many haters is that we are always hating on others?
Do I have a built in bias?
The interesting thing I noticed in my unscientific research on women’s 400m race is that the Bahamians were all for it, the Americans not so much. We live in such a polarized society that opinions tend to immediately break in a way that favors our unintentional biases. While I was sitting there all in my feelings about the race, I reached out to some folks off line to check myself. I also paid attention to the news feeds of my friends who run professionally to get a sense of what they thought. I especially paid attention to the 400m runners. The general consensus seemed to be “when in doubt, dive”.
So I asked myself would I have had the same reaction if Allyson had fallen or dived in front of Shaunae. I can honestly say that my initial reaction would have been the same. But that was because as much as I love track, I can admit that I was ignorant of the rules. People lean and dive for the finish line all the time. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but it’s not uncommon. So I congratulate Shaunae Miller for winning an amazing race. And whether she threw herself across the finish line or she fell, it doesn’t matter. It was a legal win (yes, I looked it up). If you have an opinion, you can and should engage in meaningful dialog about the issue. I know I have and I’ve learned a lot. But let’s not stoop to some of the, I’ll call them, unkind things that I have read throughout this Olympic season. And even if you can’t celebrate with her, don’t rob her of her moment because she worked hard. You wouldn’t want anyone to steal your moment now would you?
I will close this blog by cleaning up a quote from one of my friends that I think sums it up beautifully. He tweeted “I would give anything to have the CHANCE to stop, drop & roll across the finish line at the Olympics right now so I’m not mad”. And I consider him to be a pretty good authority since he has had someone dive across the finish line on him.