Where are our other Gabrielle Douglases?

Dr. Ridgely Abdul Mu’min Muhammad

The world has justifiably fallen in love with America’s gold medalist Gabrielle Douglas.  However, the more we learn about her struggles, the more we must ask the question, “How many other great young Black people are out there that we will never know, because they were not as mentally and spiritually prepared as Gabrielle?” They may have great potential but they never made it through the agonizing reality of being Black in a world dominated by “White Supremacy.”

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan writes in A Torchlight for America: “There seems to be a practice of identifying young, brilliant black children, particularly black boys, and casting in their minds suggestions that stagnate their development and kill their upward movement.” Gabrielle Douglas gave an interview after the Olympics to Vanity Fair magazine.  In this interview she stated that she felt isolated and was made the butt of “racist jokes” while training in Virginia before moving to Iowa to be coached by her mentor Liang Chow. She felt bullied by the other white girls in the program to the point that she was afraid to show off more of her skill.  Gabrielle had been training as a gymnast since she was six years old. Starting in 2004, when she was eight, Gabrielle mostly trained at Excalibur Gymnastics, in Virginia Beach, a well-regarded program that has produced 10 members of the U.S. national team since 1995. Her mother soon began working nights so she could homeschool Gabrielle, in large part because a gymnast’s daily training regimen makes going to regular school impossible.

Through all of the physical and emotional stress of such intensive training, Gabrielle still blossomed until 2009. Gabrielle said that some of her fellow white gymnasts had made fun of her appearance but when an Excalibur staff member suggested to her that she might want to get a “nose job,” that was a severe blow to her self-esteem. But Gabrielle did not quit. She became determined to train at Chow’s gym, in West Des Moines, Iowa. “I’ve got to get a coach I can believe in, and who believes in me,” she told her mother. Gabrielle said that her mother told her to “suck it up,” to which Gabrielle asked, “If this was happening to you, how well would you suck it up?” Her mother was then moved to make it possible for Gabrielle to move to Iowa to train under Chow.

What would have happened to Gabrielle if she were not so persistent and her mother were not so caring? Do you remember the story of Malcolm X when he was eight years old and the white teacher told him that he should forget about becoming a lawyer and think about learning carpentry? Malcolm eventually dropped out of school to pursue a life of crime. In a previous article “Exposing the Aim and Purpose of America’s Educational System,” we shared the statistic that 1 out of every 6 Black children was suspended from high school in the 2009-2010 school year compared to 1 out of 20 for white children. There is a direct relationship between being suspended and eventually dropping out of school and eventually ending up in jail.

Why should Gabrielle have to “suck up” a deliberate psychological blow to her head? Why does society have to suffer the consequences of having to deal with a destroyed ego? What if these incidents are not isolated, but a planned method of control? Is there, as Minister Farrakhan stated, “a system in place to keep a plantation running, for the benefit of the rich and powerful?” Minister Farrakhan also describes the purpose of “true education”: to cultivate “the person—mind, body, and spirit—by bringing us closer to fulfilling our purpose for being, which is to reflect Allah (God).” If her mother had not pulled Gabrielle from the public school system and homeschooled her, and then sent her away to be trained by an Asian coach, would we now be enjoying the athletic feats and captivating smile and personality of Gabrielle Douglas?

Minister Farrakhan is walking the streets of Chicago with the Fruit of Islam (FOI) trying to repair the broken souls of our young Black men who have formed “gangs” to express their manhood in a culture that has failed to acknowledge their humanity. Their frustrations are turned on each other while the dominant society is training professional killers to gun them down when the order is given. What if this form of psychological destruction, followed by physical annihilation, is not an anomaly but the American way? Jeff Schmidt in his book Disciplined Minds makes the point that this type of psychological warfare is not performed solely on Blacks as manifested in the dropout rate in high school, but is a planned method of selection that moves all the way up to the PhD level. The selection process is based not on academic skills or even race, but on a willingness to give over the core of one’s being to serve “the status quo,” the rich and powerful. The aspiring professional, no matter what the field, must demonstrate a willingness to be a “professional” slave without making waves.

Dr. Schmidt, who holds a PhD in physics, demonstrates how the “ideology of the status quo is built into the curriculum.”  The curriculum establishes the goals, values, priorities and attitude of its students to ensure future employers that the graduate is willing and able to set aside his or her values and do whatever is necessary to “get ahead.”  If he changes employers, the graduate is flexible enough to change values to fit in to the new workplace at the drop of a hat. Sounds like a well-adjusted prostitute to me.

Dr. Schmidt goes into how the game is played on the graduate student to destroy the student’s self-esteem and then remold him or her into the image desired by that institution—much like what Gabrielle faced at her first gym. I remember being very clearly told when I was a PhD student at Michigan State University (MSU) that the job of the faculty there was to tear down my old self and remake me into a product of MSU’s graduate school. Here are some of the tricks that Dr. Schmidt has documented:

(1) “The ‘successful’ students are the ones that check out faculty attitudes and beliefs so they can mimic them…”

(2) “Learning to play along meant learning to see yourself the way the system sees you.”

(3) The well-adjusted student does not spend time on areas of interest in his or her chosen field, but studies what interests his/her professors, for those will be the items tested on in the qualifying exams.

(4) Students are not told their scores on the qualifying exams—an act of concealment that gives the “faculty members the option of deciding that a student has failed the test even if that student has outscored someone they are going to pass.”

In other words, the PhD candidate’s whole professional life is wrapped up in how he or she is perceived by the faculty and not necessarily by his or her grasp of the material. After 16 years of schooling, including getting through college, the graduate student must do another 4 to 8 years to get a PhD that comes down to whether or not the faculty “likes” him or her. Dr. Schmidt devotes a subchapter of his book to acts of “Individual Violence,” where he documents how students that have failed their qualifying examinations have murdered former professors and students. Society seems to love to point to the acts of violence in the “hood,” while playing down violence at the other end of the spectrum in our “ivory towers.” It has been reported that the mass murderer who killed 12 people recently in Colorado had just failed one of his qualifying exams three days before he bought the guns.

The streets of America are red with the blood of our young Black boys and girls who could have been another Gabrielle Douglas. Our prisons are full of untapped talent that just did not know that they were a victim of a well-thought-out scheme. We must teach our young Black boys and girls that, as Minister Farrakhan says, “We are at war!” and that each person or institution that they may meet could be a “land mine” ready to detonate in their minds to destroy their self-esteem and their future. We must institutionalize some form of survival training to protect the minds of our children.

(Dr. Ridgely A. Mu’min Muhammad, Agricultural Economist, National Student Minister of Agriculture, Manager of Muhammad Farms. He can be reached at drridge@bellsouth.net)

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