What does that mean, exactly?

Shani Davis

After showing the (wildly tape-delayed) footage of Shani Davis winning the 1000m in the Olympics, the bobbleheads on NBC mentioned a couple of times that he was the “first African-American to win an individual gold medal in the Winter Olympics”. Okay, interesting, especially after Bryant Gumbel’s comments, but what does it mean, exactly? As everybody knows, “African-American” is the standard media euphemism for “black”, so I spent a good five minutes trying to figure out if NBC was trying to tell me that Davis is the first black American to win an individual medal or whether they might have actually meant that he was the first black person, regardless of nationality, to win an individual medal (I immediately discounted the possibility that they meant he was the first American of African ancestry, regardless of race, to have won an individual medal; white people from Kenya and Arabs from Egypt never get called African-Americans, even when they are).

When I whipped over to ESPN.com later, I assumed the headlines in the above screencap were the answer to my question: certainly ESPN appears to be claiming he’s the first black person, period, to win individual glory. But the article linked from the “first black” head only talks about black Americans; it makes no mention of other nationalities.

If you believe Knight Ridder, Davis is, in fact, the first black athlete to win individual gold at the Winter Olympics. Which means that NBC, ESPN and various other media outlets we’re sure to hear from in the next few days are so ingrained in their habit of using “African-American” to mean “black” that they are implicitly denying the existence of the hundreds of millions of non-American black people around the world.

One can only imagine that this is exactly what Malcolm X was hoping for when he introduced the term.

4 Responses to “What does that mean, exactly?”

  1. Curt Says:

    I’ve never been a fan of the of the myth of journalistic objectivity, but the reporter on the story in the L.A. Times indulges in some laughably amateurish bias in favor of Davis. Most revealing line of the story (refering to Davis’ main antagonist): ‘Acting like a big Texas jerk, Hedrick said, “Shani skated fast today, that’s all I have to say.”‘ I’m not saying that the guy doesn’t sound like big jerk (although not much more so than Davis and his family, quite frankly), but needless to say, if this didn’t serve completely serve a completely politically correct agenda there’s no way one of the national newspapers would let that kind of open name-calling show up in print.

  2. shonk Says:

    To be honest, the only person who’s come out of the Davis/Hedrick controversy looking good is Joey Cheek. Davis (and his mom) comes across as pretty selfish, basically saying he’s looking out for himself and to hell with everybody else. I’m not saying it’s not understandable, given that it doesn’t sound like the U.S. skating and Olympic apparatus has been entirely aboveboard in dealing with him, but he certainly hasn’t made any efforts to sound like a nice guy (and his stone-faced post-race interview on NBC was almost bizarrely joyless).

    On the other side of the fence, Hedrick was basically trying hypocritically to invoke team loyalty and patriotism to get Davis to work for his own individual glory. The reason he wanted Davis to do the team pursuit was so that he could try to challenge Heiden’s record 5 speedskating golds. Which, for Davis, must have been especially galling, since two of those five hypothetical golds (in the 1000 and 1500) would have come at Davis’ expense.

    Cheek, on the other hand, has basically said “Why would anybody expect Shani to do the team pursuit? He’s never done it before in his life”, while praising both Hedrick and Davis for their accomplishments. Plus he’s donated all of his prize money ($40,000 so far) to Johann Olav Koss’ philanthropic organization and, in his gold medal press conference, put speedskating in a perspective that reveals the basic pettiness of the whole Davis/Hedrick feud: “What I do is great fun. I’ve seen the entire world and I’ve met amazing friends. But it’s honestly a pretty ridiculous thing. I mean I skate around on ice in tights, right?”

  3. Tym Says:

    As being a minority, if you do not achieve or succeed then people will look down on you. If you try to achieve, they will try to push you down because they want to dominate against you. If you try hard and achieve then they will isolate you. Those are the three stages that most of minority have to go through in their road of success if they’re not achieving it with a pack of minority. Could I be a minority myself to view this way? Although I have not been going through a rough road like other minority in US. But once in a while, I was being discrimated. That’s fine, people might have some negative views of other and some being an extreme against the minority.

    I only am sadden when everyone is so ignorance about an issue. Let’s look back to the current U.S. Olympics Gold Medalist, Shani Davis. He’s the first African-American to win a gold medal in Winter Olympics and Speedskating. What’s the issue? You might wonder. Here they are: Link 1Link 2

    After Shani won the gold medal. Everyone was turning away from him. At home, before the Olympics, he has to use the facility in Canada to train for the Olympics because U.S. Speedskating terminated its contract with Davis and forcing him to pay for using national training facilities. That comes right after Davis refused to remove Europe’s DSB Bank logo from his U.S. racing suit for a federation sponsor. Wherein, Davis and federation never get along at the very beginning since the federation failed to promote a black athlete like Davis. They want to do that now just because Davis is so good and he could win a medal in Olympics. That’s enough about the federation.

    When it comes to Chad Hedrick, his teammate (probably). Hedrick criticized Davis for not participating in a team persuit and less of an American. Wherein, at home Davis was being ignored. I don’t see how someone like Davis should give out so much when he does not get anything in return. That’s what I call “fair”. All of the comments from Jansen and Heiden toward Davis was just another way of saying Davis is not in the American team as well as letting the world knows that US Speedskating team is not represented by an African-American. I never expect to hear those comments coming from any Olympics gold medalist. As for Davis, he’s happy if America is happy about him winning the gold medal. Where do you see in there that he’s not representing United States? He just does not want to represent the federation, it’s an racist system exists within. That’s what needs to change, NOT Davis. He’s an American, he won the gold medal for America.

    Don’t talk about team spirit Chad Hedrick. You’re having your own personal goal as well. You want to win 5 gold medals in Winter Olympics to have your name as shine as Heiden. You want to take Davis into the team and persuing your gold medal dream. Or, you might just blame Davis for not performing as well if Davis is not helping you win the team persuit in speed skating. You’re about “self” all the way. How much of Red, White, and Blue you have in your blood? You judge that yourself Hedrick.

    As for many of you out there. If someone can succeed, please let them. Give them your love and the sense of belonging. Don’t give them the bitter taste.

    And of course, a gold medal does not make you an Olympic champion. And a champion should not worry too much about gold. An Olympic champion is someone who knows how to get the best out of his/her self. An olympian is for the whole world to look upon. It is the record that they hold and the spirit that they have for their beloved sport.

    About Davis post-race interview, the stone-face of Davis during the interview with NBC has a reason. In addition, is it appropriate for the commentator/interviewer to give a negative gesture toward Davis about his stone face on the camera? That gives me a bad taste about that interviewer.

  4. Wild Pegasus Says:

    He’s an individual, first and foremost. He doesn’t care about bringing glory to the US. He doesn’t care about “being a credit to his race.” He doesn’t care about his co-competitors*. He cares about winning. He cares about himself. Some people think that makes him a jerk. I think that makes him a hero.

    • When a team wins, everyone gets the same place. If Hedrick beats Davis in a race, do they both get gold? No. How are they teammates?

    (btw shonk hi how are you havent seen you asc much hope youre doing well hail pennsylvania)

    • Josh

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