Yesterday on social media, I congratulated Britain’s Nicola Adams on winning Gold at the Rio Olympics, and all the other Black women before her who have done the same. It struck me that they were positive role models for all children around the world. However, some white men didn’t like what I had written. This got me thinking about the past week, and the hypocrisy surrounding Ryan Lochte and Gabby Douglas.
As a former police detective, I’ve dealt with my fair share of false crime reports, both admitted by the so-called victim or established by me as the investigator. So when I heard about the American swimmer Ryan Lochte allegedly making up a false robbery by gunpoint whilst with other athletes at a gas station in Rio, I didn’t really take any notice. I’d heard it all before, and he’d been given the benefit of doubt.
That was until I heard about the treatment of his fellow countrywoman, gymnast Gabby Douglas.
The treatment of Douglas after her alleged ‘crime’ was in stark contrast to Lochte’s, the hypocrisy oozing and repugnant. But I wasn’t surprised. One is a white male, the all-American hero. The other, a black female.
Compassion poured out for Lochte, despite him misleading the police. Douglas, vilified for not putting her hand to her heart during the US national anthem. Which is not a crime, just to be clear. A black woman, who has achieved so much for her country. One of three in US gymnastIc history to win three gold medals, written books and inspires so many young people. And yes, Lochte too is a great athlete. But ask yourself this, if the roles were reversed with both incidents, would the treatment have been the same? I doubt it.
Imagine any-race woman falsely accusing a man of such a crime? Or, a man of colour doing the same?
As a black person, the one thing I have learnt during my lifetime is that when we as people of colour step out of line, rock the boat or do not conform, it is because we are somehow disloyal or unpatriotic to our country. It doesn’t matter that I’m not an American, as a black Briton, Douglas and I have a shared racial history. The experience of disproportionate treatment, together with misrepresentation. As a man with black sisters raised by a white mother, I have always been aware that black women like my siblings are one of the most disadvantaged groups in the world. As a writer and campaigner, that’s why I’m a fierce advocate of black women and share positive stories about their success. Only recently, I was writing about Simone Manuel winning gold at Rio and becoming the first black woman to do so for swimming.
The truth is, how we look at Lochte and Douglas is different for many of us. It’s racialised.
In Lochte we see something good, pure, in Douglas, bad. You only have to read the vile posts about her, in contrast to the support for him and his ‘lapse of judgment’. The inequality in how we treat black and white people is entrenched. There are different standards to be met. That’s why I keep on writing about it, and speaking out. This week, Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission released a report on the UK’s ‘deep-rooted’ race problems, which was nothing new for minorities, or indeed poorer white people.
The stories of Lochte and Douglas will past, but for her, the hate; racism and misogyny she has endured will stay. It’s not something you just forget, after the dust has settled. And if we’re truly going to try and rank their ‘crimes’, I would say his, about a false robbery report as oppose to hers, simply standing to attention during the Rio medal ceremony, out-trumps the latter. However, Lochte is a white man, Douglas, a black woman. She hands-down beats him as the worst US citizen.
When you take umbrage with me because I praise black women, it says more about you than it does me. Race and racism makes people uncomfortable, but that shouldn’t mean we can’t speak about them.