Americans of a certain age were treated to "The Great American Melting Pot," Schoolhouse Rock's ode to diversity. At the same time, select groups around the United States saw the commitment to equality and understanding of diversity inside its shores often treated as Ron Burgundy's "Old Wooden Ship" -- just off-base and wrong.
The voyage toward equality for all people is far from complete, but Team USA's roster for the 2022 Winter Olympics is a lot more representative of the people that call this nation home.
Let's start with Team USA's women, who are absolutely bossing it. American women have collected nine of the nation's 13 medals so far at these Olympics and, as On Her Turf points out, women are in the minority on the 2022 U.S. Olympic team, whose 224-person roster includes 108 women, 115 men, and one non-binary athlete.
NBC Olympics broadcaster Mike Tirico put the winter triumphs in perspective with stirring comments this week.
"Over almost 100 years of Olympic Winter Games history, only two Black Americans had ever won a medal in an individual event," Tirico said. "That is, before yesterday, when in less than 24 hours, two more women added their names to the list, Erin Jackson winning gold at the speedskating oval and then bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor, a three-time medalist in the two-woman event, taking silver in the monobob.
"In a moment when diversity has become an even bigger topic in the living room and in the boardroom, in the midst of Black History Month the timing is all the more notable. Inclusion in winter sports has long lacked ... transformation doesn't typically happen overnight, but the sight of Meyers Taylor and Jackson on the medal stand no doubt offers a power message of representation to young athletes that these sports could be their terrain as well."
Many big, diverse achievements for Team USA
As Jackson and Meyers Taylor's medals shine prominently, it's worth noting that these OIympics are delivering numerous showcases of the many walks of life on this planet.
We've already mentioned LeDuc. And now consider that Team USA includes:
- Andrew Blaser, the first publicly out gay man to compete in skeleton at the Olympics.
- Abby Roque, the first Indigenous player for U.S. women’s hockey team.
- Nathan Chen, first singles skater of Chinese ethnicity to win a gold medal
Also, three of the four women on the U.S. bobsled team are Black and four of the six singles skaters on the Olympic team are Chinese-American.
Understanding continues its winning ways
Of course, there's plenty of ignorance left in our country and world, just as more and more diversity is showcased on United States and international Olympic rosters.
But while there is work to be done in recognizing progress, another Tirico quote rings especially true. Referencing Jackson's gold medal saw Tirico inspired not just to raise up her new standard as a Black athlete in U.S. speed skating, but as a role model for athletes, period.
"A dream come true for her, and maybe the seed for dreams for future Olympians no matter what color," Tirico said. "What a moment."