The Reason People Were Quick to Judge Gabby Douglas

August 10th 2016

Danielle DeCourcey

Gabby Douglas didn't put her hand over her heart during the national anthem and people freaked out.

Douglas quietly stood at attention during the U.S. women's gymnastics team's gold medal ceremony on Tuesday, but because she didn't put her hand over her heart, people on Twitter accused her of being disrespectful and making an anti-American political statement. However, the unwarranted backlash could be for a terrible reason: assumptions about black Americans.

Douglas apologized but she shouldn't have to explain herself.

Douglas responded to the backlash with an apology on Twitter and clarified that she didn't intentionally keep her hand from her heart. It wasn't a political statement.

"In response to the tweets I saw tonight, I always stand at attention out of respect for our country whenever the national anthem is played," she wrote. "I never meant any disrespect and I apologize if I offended anyone."

The U.S. Flag code does encourage people to place their hand on their heart during the the "Star Spangled Banner," but it's not a law and many people don't even know that the flag code exists. Many Americans were taught to put their hand on their heart for the Pledge of Allegiance but not necessarily the national anthem.

Also the same day that Gabby Douglas and the U.S. women's gymnastics team stood on the podium, Michael Phelps started outright laughing during the national anthem (for a very Baltimore reason) at his 20th gold medal ceremony.

Michael Phelps laughs during his gold medal ceremony.

However, with Phelps, people didn't question his patriotism.

So why were people so quick to jump all over Gabby Douglas and assume she's unpatriotic?

A pervasive characteristic in modern American racism is the belief that black people "violate cherished U.S. values," according to a 2010 paper from New York University sociology professor P.J. Henry.

He also wrote that modern racism includes the belief that black Americans "should put forth their own efforts to overcome their situation in society without special assistance, and that African Americans are too demanding and have gotten more than they deserve."

People on Twitter also quickly came to Douglas' defense.

At the 2012 London games, Gabby Douglas became the first black American in Olympic gymnastics history to win a gold medal in the individual all-around event.

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