It’s been a rough couple of months for Black women in sports and I’m tired of seeing extraordinary Black women being dehumanized for choosing themselves. The world and America needs to understand supporting Black women and normalizing mental health is overdue.
It all started in May when Champion tennis player Naomi Osaka pulled out of the French Open to focus on her mental health. Her decision to prioritize her mind, body, and spirit was met with backlash from people who had probably never even picked up a tennis racket in their entire life.
She said the pressure was just too much for her and she needed a break. Like any job you’re given a break from all the work you put in. So why was Osaka not given that same human decency?
Taking a break when something becomes overwhelming is a natural human reaction, but for Osaka, a young Black woman, she was expected to just “suck it up.”
She apologized for letting fans down, but please understand Osaka doesn’t owe anybody anything.
In June, the fastest woman in the country and Dallas native, Sha’Carri Richardson was also punished by the Olympic Committee for testing positive for THC during the trials.
Even though there is no research citing THC as a performance enhancing drug and was legal in Oregon at the time of the trials, she was stripped of her Olympic dreams in consequence.
Richardson said after learning her mother passed away, she was in a bad place and needed a minute from reality. She took responsibility for her actions and apologized to the country and the world for her “mistake.”
She famously tweeted after her suspension, “I am human.”
But in reality just like Osaka she didn’t need to apologize for anything because she doesn’t owe anybody a damn thing.
Before being an athlete, Richardson is a human being. And like anybody else after suffering a loss she needed a break.
Then on Tuesday, Houston native and the greatest gymnast of all time Simone Biles withdrew herself from the Olympic team final because she was not in the right mental space.
She said very clearly, “I’m okay physically, just frustrated.”
In a press conference, Biles also said that doing gymnastics wasn’t fun for her anymore and felt like she had the weight of the world on her shoulders.
While some people supported Biles and her very personal decision, others had the audacity to call her “selfish” and “un-American.”
And yes the people criticizing Osaka, Richardson, and Biles most likely have the athleticism of these Black women’s pinky toe.
In this age of self discovery, Black women choosing themselves should be celebrated and supported.
The way America was so quick to turn on Biles the minute she did something they didn’t like is the textbook definition of oppression and white supremacy.
Yesterday, Biles tweeted, “all the outpouring of love and support I’ve received has made me realize I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before.”
Her tweet is the story of a lot of Black women. We give so much of ourselves to the world and don’t expect that same love and gratitude in return.
Oftentimes, we attach our value to things we’ve done and accomplished instead of just being.
No human being is strong all the time, so why is it expected for Black women?
It’s common knowledge that America has a long history of mistreating Black women while at the same time benefiting from our contributions to society.
Since Africans were stolen from their land and brought to this country, Black women were taking care of their slave owners’ children while also raising their own.
Black women worked in the field with Black men while at the same time cooking, sewing and fulfilling traditional roles in the home.
After the abolition of slavery, Black women under the Constitution didn’t have the same amount of rights as Black men so we did what we could do to survive.
Black women became educators, farmers, nurses, and homemakers and raised their children alone while a lot of our men were fighting for America overseas.
So the stereotype and stigma of a strong Black woman come from years of oppression and pure survival.
As soon as we got the opportunity, Black women started to choose themselves and excel in areas like sports, medicine, business and other careers that have been historically dominated by men.
The everyday battle of fighting racism, sexism, and injustice is exhausting and still so much is expected from Black women.
And for these women the added layer of expectations and judgement is obvious.
So I have a clear message for Biles, Osaka, and Richardson: you’re doing the right thing. Please keep choosing yourself. No one in this world is going to support and love you more than you.
This society was not created to support Black women the way we deserve so that means we need to make decisions in our best interest. Being the remarkable Black woman that you are is enough. And your hard work has already proven to the world you are deserving of all the love and praise.
Black women don’t owe America, the world or anybody else a damn thing.
Photo: Abbie Parr/Getty Images