Andrew Sullivan’s blog has been running a series of reader reactions on the subject of the Olympics and nationalism. A recent entry:
Gabby Douglas’ gold medal is being hailed all over the place as a first for an African-American gymnast. But I believe it’s actually much more than that: Gabby is the first black athlete from anywhere to win the title, and one of very few to compete for it. I’m a good liberal, and all for the term “African-American” in its proper context, but in this case it seems to shrink the scale of Ms. Douglas’s first – and America’s. (Afro.com covers it here.) The fact that our country, while imperfect, is one where a traditionally elite (and still of course expensive) sport is open to anyone with the chops to win, gives me enormous pride. Seeing our multi-hued team of talented, determined young women – their families must have originally come here from all over the place – take apart the monochromatic, over-made-up, bawling Russians – that’s where I get my Olympic jingoism on. America f[–]k yeah.
Monochromatic? I guess “they” all look alike, eh? The Russian team captain, Aliya Mustafina, as her name makes clear, is ethnically Tatar. Recall that the Russian Federation is a multiethnic political community. Indeed, the Tatar’s faced significant discrimination and oppression during periods of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, and continue to face hurdles outside of the Republic of Tatarstan–although, I should note, Mutafina’s father and sister are also successful elite athletes.