Are things too black and white in Beijing?


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BEIJING -- The scene on the beach volleyball court, with gold medalists Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor dancing and clapping and mugging for the crowd, felt like a giant embrace.

The scene later inside felt like just the opposite.

At the post-match news conference, an American reporter was the first to raise his hand. He was sitting in one of the front rows. He was large enough to be seen by everyone. He was even recognized by Walsh and May-Treanor, who looked directly at him for the question.


But Milo Bryant of the Colorado Springs Gazette never had a chance to ask it.

He was never called upon by the Chinese official directing the press conference.

That official instead called upon a reporter in the back, a reporter in the corner, a reporter crammed in the middle, seemingly anybody else but Bryant.

All those reporters are white.

Bryant is black.

It was the second time in these Olympics that I’ve seen Bryant inexplicably ignored, and afterward I asked about it.

‘It’s happened more than that,’ he said. ‘I’ve been trying to figure that out since I got here.’

I can guess. In a country where the government reportedly attempted to ban blacks from Beijing bars in a pre-Olympic crackdown, I can totally guess.

Bryant wouldn’t go there, saying, ‘I’m not one to call out something like that until I’ve studied it, until I know their reasons, and I haven’t been able to do that.’

A talented journalist who is sadly leaving the business after the Olympics to help start a professional training company known as ‘No Bullfit,’ Bryant said he has had other unusual experiences here.


Everywhere he has gone, locals have asked him to pose for photographs.

Part of that is because he is big enough to be an athlete. But a bigger part is that, in a land of a billion people, he is one of the very, very few blacks.

‘I’m certainly different here,’ he said.

At the beach volleyball conference, Bryant raised his hand so long, the athletes looked at him with pity and shrugged in helplessness.

I wish I could have done more. I wonder if I should have said something.

But I worried that Bryant didn’t want the attention. And what if, against all odds, the Chinese official simply didn’t see him? If I was wrong in calling out a perceived stereotype, would I have insulted an entire country because of my own stereotypes?

I have my suspicions why Milo Bryant has not been allowed to completely do his job here.

But once again, these Olympics have been marred by an elusive truth.

-- Bill Plaschke