Black women have shown their strength, resilience, and brilliance in every aspect of life they’ve chosen to participate in. Sports are no exception but with black women’s show of greatness has come the shadow of brutal and unnecessary criticism and scrutinization that seems to follow POC everywhere they go.Being a black woman in sports means having to manoeuvre through the constant battles of racism and sexism while also battling stereotypes and compartmentalization. This means having to excel and prove yourself as a capable and competent athlete while also having to make yourself just the right amount of black so people can view your success as an accomplishment for the POC and women and rid the rest of the community of white guilt. They also have to manage to be just white enough where you’re viewed as a “non-threatening black” and can be marketed as digestible and provide a new name to submit into “I’m not racist, I was rooting for ____”Black women are celebrated for their accomplishments as long as their accomplishments do not show to be more than what was expected of them. If they surpass the limits set for them, they are put down and ransacked for possible mistakes that would fulfil the already given presumption that the success was not due to skill and ability, and when no such mistake is found they turn and claw for anything else that will subdue the triumph.
When the success is sweet the backlash is bitter. When Gabby Douglas won the Olympic gold medal in 2012, the focus was taken away from the dangling piece of gold that hung from her neck, as she stood as not only the first African American to win the all-around title but the first American to claim gold medals in the team and all-around events, and towards her hair. She was dragged across social media and even four years later, at the 2016 Olympics people rushed towards their twitter, Instagram, and facebook holes, not to comment on her skill and ability as a world class gymnast, but to throw around comments about her hair that are not only racist but dehumanizing as well. What is the most horrifying is these comments were mainly thrown around by black men and women.
Black women in sports are also stripped of their femininity and projected to the world as aggressive. Serena Williams, considered to be the greatest female tennis player of all time, has been subject to baffling instances of blatant racism where she was even compared, in many instances, to a gorilla. These statements were not only circulated on social media but even on some national programs. There were even some cartoon drawings depicting her as a monstrous, hulking, animal-like figure. These depictions were degrading, dehumanizing, and invalidating on so many terms and Serena Williams and so many others have been victim to these kinds of instances.Swim caps designed for natural black hair are banned. They are deemed too masculine, too opinionated, their hair too kinky, their nails too long, too fast, too strong, too good, too athletic.Not woman enough.Black women are constantly put on a pedestal where thousands of people can pick and prod and dissect them so they can be deemed worthy and feminine and capable and enough for everyone. The light is shone so brightly and angled so perfectly to illuminate the cracks that were painted by every spectator that decides they would rather break them down than build them up. They are criticized at every turn and stripped of their value time and time again but continue to stand resilient and strong and manage to overcome battle after battle.These women don’t have to face a different brand of racism and sexism than other black women in different branches of society, but they do so struggling in soccer fields, track fields, basketball courts, gymnasiums and wherever they’re competing. They must fuse together being a black woman and being an athlete while having to deal with thousands of people on the outside telling them they are too much and too little at the same time. They carry the weight of the world’s eyes and have to do so with not so much as a grimace or risk being labelled as just another “angry black woman”.They have provided us with icons for thousands of little black girls looking for someone that looks like them who has achieved all the things they wanted for themselves and they deserve more.Serena Williams, Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles, Sha-Carri Richardson, Naomi Osaka, Brianna Mcneal and so many more. Protect Black Women In sports.