Commentary: Golden Gabby Douglas Inspires a Generation

She may only be 16, but Gabby Douglas has already got Oprah, Lil’ Wayne and millions of Black kids singing her praises.

Posted: 08/03/2012 05:42 PM EDT

(Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images)

With the Olympics in full swing now, history is being made nearly every day in London. After winning his 19th medal, Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time. He also became the first man to win an event — in this case, the 200-meter individual medley — at three different Olympic Games.

While the pool events have been exciting, outside of the water, historic moments are also happening. Most notably, African-American gymnast Gabby Douglas’ gold medal in the all-around is the first time in the history of the Olympics that a Black woman has won that event. The moment was so big, even Oprah took to Twitter to say that she was crying happy tears  for the 16-year-old.

Perhaps owing to the fact that gymnastics training in the U.S. can be prohibitively expensive for many people, it’s not often that you see African-American gymnasts. It’s even rarer that you see African-American gymnasts wipe the floor with the competition on the world’s stage. But Gabby, who two years ago left her family in Virginia to go train in Iowa, did it, and she’s now already having a big impact on other African-Americans.

Besides Oprah, other African-Americans like Lil’ Wayne, Nicki Minaj, and Gabrielle Union tweeted to Gabby to show their support. In theWashington Post, writer Tomi Obaro explained just why Douglas is already so important to the Black community:

As the first Black woman to win an individual gold medal in gymnastics, Douglas is a quiet refutation of that trope. She’s not merely good (for a Black gymnast). She’s the best.

Every time I watch Douglas — skin as dark as mine, nose as broad — I feel intensely, irrationally proud.

She’s filling hundreds of Black girls all over the country with inspiration, giving them permission to dream.

As with everyone who broke color barriers before her, Gabby’s victory reminds African-Americans that the boundaries that once existed for Blacks are slowly eroding. The world belongs to Black people just as much as it belongs to anyone else, and seeing people like Gabby step up and take what they’re due is a reminder of that. It’s a reminder that not only are African-Americans good enough, sometimes they’re the best.

In an interview after her victory, Gabby explained that confidence is key, saying, “You just have to stay strong and stay positive, ‘OK, I got this,’ and believe and don’t be afraid. Go out there and just dominate. You have to go out there and be a beast. Because if you don’t then you’re not going to be on the top.”

Undoubtedly, standing atop that medal stand, she instilled at least some of that same confidence in millions of Black kids just like her and hopefully shut up the haters who were focused on her hair instead of her amazing accomplishments.

The opinions expressed here to not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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