What Goes Through My Mind as an African American Olympian When I Get *That* Question
Ever since I’ve made the Olympic team I’ve had multiple interviews with various magazines, news stations, etc. Eventually, they all come around to the same question.
Interviewers Everywhere: “So, Black person in America, how does it feel to be representing the United States in the Tokyo 2021 Olympics?”
Me, a black person: *Stares as a million thoughts rush through my mind about social injustice, racism, and representing a country where a portion of the people still wants to see me hanged*
Interviewers Everywhere: *Smiles with excitement*
What DOES it mean to me to represent the “great” country of America? The country where I’m still asked, “but where are you REALLY from?” as if only those who are pale in complexion have the right to “pure” American blood. The land of the free that locks children in cages as they cross the border. The home of the brave who make fake social media accounts that they use to threaten and harass people. The nation that my ancestors were dragged to, but were never allowed to be a part of. What does it mean to me to represent such a country?
Me, a black person: *Looks down at my medal, my ticket to Tokyo. Then back at the reporter*
Interviewers Everywhere: *Glances around nervously*
Whenever I get a version of this question, I feel conflicted. I know that there are millions of amazing, good-hearted, loving, people in my country. The people of America have fought for laws to be changed for the betterment of its citizens. We have supported each other in protests and gathered together in times of mourning. We are the country that people dream to one day see. We are the American dream. I am living the “American dream.”
Chicago, the city that I grew up in, feels the most like home to me. The skyline tickles my distant memories and brings a warmth of nostalgia every time I see it. My mother’s side of the family moved here from Arkansas. My father’s side is from Chicago as well, by way of Arkansas and St. Croix, US Virgin Islands before that. This land is all we know.
Yet, I feel eyes on me everywhere I go. How can the same country that I call home be filled…