Aquabrother Cullen Jones wins Olympic gold in Beijing
You know, it’s funny.
I remember when I was a little kid sitting in the living room watching our family’s black and white TV, not necessarily caring what was on. It was just so cool to have a TV. And then, every so often, a very rare occurrence would take place; a black person would appear on TV.
Each and every time this amazing occurrence took place, I would yell at the top of my lungs that a black person was on TV. And soon as I did that, I could count on hearing the frantically rushing footsteps of my mother and father as they dropped whatever they were doing to come see. Because this was a major occasion. Didn’t matter if it was a commercial, which it often was. It was still a black person, and they were on the TV.
So here we are in the year 2008. It’s more than 40 years beyond those fondly, if not somewhat humorously, remembered days, and we black folks still can’t seem to help ourselves whenever we see one of our own setting fire to yet another barrier. I think we know that we really should be past this level of jubilation now that there are more black ‘firsts’ than anyone can keep count of, but something about it still feels good. It feels good because some of us can remember being told how some of these things would never happen, sometimes for the craziest reasons. Like the time a white kid I went to school with told me that black folks had heavier bones, which made it harder for them to float, which was why, naturally, no black person would ever beat a white person in a swimming match.
And yes I’ll admit it; I believed that kid. Even though my parents argued desperately with me trying to get me to understand precisely how stupid this kid was, I was convinced the kid was probably right. Why? Because I could swim, but I damned sure couldn’t beat many of the other white kids in any race. And neither of my parents knew how to swim at that time. Of course, my mother later learned how to swim in her late 60s and went on to win several senior medals in statewide contests. Beating the hell out of those little old white ladies. But that was more than 20 years later.
And just to add insult to injury, I happened to be pretty quick as a kid. Matter of fact I was the fastest kid in my school and in about eight of the other schools we competed against in Colorado. But naturally, according to one of my young white friends, the reason I was able to run faster than ‘them’ was because black folks had an extra bone in their foot. This didn’t quite explain why the black kid who was one year ahead of me was slow as molasses in winter, but why bother with details? His extra bone was probably dysfunctional or something. Yeah, that must have been it.
Anyway, when I read about Cullen Jones’ phenomenal Olympic gold accomplishment, I wanted to keep my cool and treat it as just another American who had won gold. At some point (and I keep telling myself this because it’s what my mother keeps telling me) we’re gonna have to get past doing cartwheels every time there’s another black ‘first’.
But that day won’t be today.
Swim on, Aquabrother, swim on…
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