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Donnell Whittenburg Opens Up About What It’s Like To Be A Black Gymnast In America

By Donnell Whittenburg | Aug. 10, 2020, 12:18 p.m. (ET)

Donnell Whittenburg looks on during the P&G Gymnastic Championships on Aug. 19, 2017 in Anaheim, Calif.


Hi everyone, 

I’m Donnell Whittenburg, and today I would like to give you a bit of insight on my life and what it means to be a Black gymnast in America. 

For starters, African Americans in general are at a disadvantage in life straight from birth. For me and most Black athletes, our parents will instill in our heads that as men and women of color we must work two times as hard to at least have a chance of making it somewhere in this world. 

For me, this was gymnastics. 

Growing up in up in gym, learning new skills and competing with teammates as junior athletes, this is what I looked forward to the most. 

Now, let’s fast forward for a second.

I’m now a young, senior gymnast soft-spoken, quiet guy that just wants to play the best role I can, but no one’s perfect. For me, I started to notice that the accountability for consequences were not being upheld. Some team members had minor consequences and for others that did the same exact thing, they would have a major one. From then on, I knew this team was divided and needed drastic culture change. 

Gymnastics is a way for me to express style, culture and creativity. Once they tried to stop me from being me, I had to rebel in my own way.

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