The Usain Bolt Meme and Ellen DeGeneres; If He's Not Bothered, Why Are You?

Updated on August 17, 2016
Christina St-Jean profile image

I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more daily than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, & LGBT advocacy.

The Ellen and Usain Bolt Meme


Let's All Take a Breath, Folks

Racism: the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

That's the definition of the word, according to Google, that has become almost a buzzword in our society, used so often that many people are almost afraid to say anything lest they be branded with the scarlet R.

Ellen DeGeneres is a comedian that has almost redefined what it means to use one's powers for good in this world. She has been a regular contributor to various charitable causes; she has helped countless guests on her show on the road to recovery from natural or financial disaster (or sometimes both); and she is regularly encouraging her audience, whether that audience is at home or in her studio, to do good in whatever way that they can.

Usain Bolt is the world's fastest man. There's no disputing that. He's also a man who likes to entertain, as evidenced by the shot of him grinning at Getty Images photographer Cameron Spencer in the now-iconic image taken during the Rio Olympics 2016 100 metre semi-finals. The image, where Bolt is grinning at the camera and seemingly enjoying the fact that he has a pretty good lead on his fellow sprinters, seems born to become a meme.

So Ellen played with the photo and put herself on Usain Bolt's back. You think that perhaps countless others who don't have anywhere near the level of celebrity that Ellen does haven't done the same?

Bolt has also shown that he has a good sense of humor as well, having retweeted the image that Ellen posted.

Why, then, are people up in arms and accusing Ellen of being racist?

If Ellen happened to be of similar descent as Usain Bolt, there would be no outcry whatsoever. She isn't, though. She's a talk show host who happens to hail from Louisiana. She also happened to post the image while racial tensions are particularly high in the United States.

But it's an image that any one of us could have altered and posted ourselves. Ellen should not be demonized suddenly as a racist simply because she posted what is actually a funny picture. In fact, Ellen is someone who has encouraged embracing diversity of all sorts throughout her tenure on her eponymous talk show.

Some have argued that the picture is offensive because Ellen is rich and captioned her tweet "This is how I'm running errands from now on #Rio2016." What some might be forgetting or ignoring in an effort to show how widespread racism continues to be is that Bolt is the best paid athlete in track currently; Telegraph reports that the sprinter is worth around $60 million, thanks to his incredibly lucrative endorsements with the likes of Puma, Visa and Gatorade, among others.

Why, then, are some folks so quick to scream "racism" when clearly Ellen and Bolt are on a relatively similar playing field in many regards?

Racism Exists in All Corners, but Don't Look Where None Exists

No doubt we've all gotten inherently sensitive to the racial offences this world seemingly has everywhere. Black Lives Matter exists for a reason, right?

It also doesn't matter how much anyone makes; racism doesn't care about finances - if someone is going to be racist, they're simply going to be that way.

But to suggest that Ellen tweeted the photo as a way of demonstrating her superiority over someone as talented as Bolt is borders on the ridiculous. The picture of the sprinting and grinning Bolt is probably one of the best - and funniest - in the world in recent memory because of what Bolt is doing at the time. What would be more ridiculous? Having someone hanging onto Bolt in an effort to get things done faster.

Just because that person happened to be white doesn't make the picture less funny.

Is racism serious? Is any form of prejudice serious? Absolutely, and I'm not trying to make light of how people feel about the image of Ellen riding on Bolt's back; those feelings are their own, and deserve to be respected.


We have gotten ourselves into such a state lately where someone could post "the sky is blue today" and they could get 10 or 20 people instantly asking what that person means by saying that. We're almost ingrained to look for the bad in the comments people make, and that's simply a sign of how overly sensitive our society has become.

I'm not denying that racism and prejudice exist. Far from it. What needs to happen is that people need to regain some degree of perspective and take a breath.

If Bolt took to his social media accounts and decried Ellen's image as being racist and intolerable somehow, then the rest of the world could jump in and tell Ellen that the image was ridiculous or whatever. That didn't happen.

Have we forgotten the fun of putting ourselves in ridiculous situations, as Ellen did with the image she tweeted?

There's kids of all colors jumping on each other's backs for piggyback rides - are they being racist?

No. They're having fun because they're not caught up in the act of drama for drama's sake.

While everyone will have a different perspective on the Usain Bolt meme and Ellen's role in it, it's important to realize that just because you think there are racist overtones in an image or a piece of art or literature doesn't mean any was intended.

What do you think?

Is the picture of Ellen and Usain Bolt racist?

See results

Usain Bolt and Ellen DeGeneres


Look for Humor, not Hatred

I don't know Ellen DeGeneres, but the evidence - her overwhelming humanitarian track record - seems to stand on her side when it comes to whether she meant anything racist with the image she posted of her on the back of a sprinting Usain Bolt.

And really, if we stopped looking for how someone is hating on us with every image and started looking for the positives, such as humor, wouldn't the world be a far better place?

Usain Bolt Discusses Training for Rio With Ellen

Questions & Answers


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