There has been so much #BlackGirlMagic taking over the Olympics this year and the media can hardly contain itself. Not only did we have the “Sensational Simones” (Biles and Manuel), but we also had returning Champs Gabby Douglas and Alyson Felix. We were also graced with the TRIPLE-track-threat of Brianna Rollins, Nia Ali and Kristi Castlin and many other Black women that were dominating in their resprctive sports.
However, the commentators and the media did not seem to be able to honor more than one Black woman at a time.
Gabby was criticized for not smiling as much as Simone. Or for not reaching Simone’s impeccable heights in the air. Or for not having “laid” edges because of course, when you are at the Olympics, keeping your hair in perfect place is the main focus *insert HEAVILY sarcastic eye roll here*.
Night after night, we heard commentators comparing Gabby to Simone, indicating that “Gabby’s time had come and gone” and that Simone was the “new it girl”. Has everyone forgotten that Gabby is an Olympian all on her own? She dominated at the 2012 Olympics, just like Simone did this year. Believe it or not, ALL of their wins have been historic! BOTH of them deserve to be recognized and honored for their contributions to the Olympic #BlackGirlTakeover.
While disheartened, this reminded me of how America and its media can never seem to honor more than one #BrilliantBlackGirl at a time. Even when we do not feel it, America somehow finds a way to create competition among Black women.
This epidemic seems to have historical roots for America as a nation, going back as far as Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth (and probably further than that). BOTH women were abolitionists and worked to free Black people from the chains of slavery. BOTH were disrespected, dishonored and disregarded. However, the few history books that even bother to mention both leaders simultaneously, seem to only do so by drawing a vast comparison between the two. Sojourner is deemed as the compliant, mild-tempered Black woman who worked “within” the system to bring change; while Harriet is hailed as the more resistant, militant figure who “didn’t take any mess.” Regardless of their temperamental differences and dispositions, we can acknowledge their different approaches and honor them both. We do NOT have to choose.
The comparing and contrasting of Black women is also shown among other historical #BrilliantBlackGirl figures. I remember learning about Coretta Scott King and Betty Shabazz as a little girl. I remember hearing about how Mrs. King had more of a “silent strength” and Dr. Shabazz was more outspoken. No one bothered to highlight how they were BOTH widows of a movement that took BOTH of their husbands. Or how they contributed indivdually to the fight for Civil Rights. Or how the two women were actually friends. Somehow, it was more important to contrast them against each other. America does not have the ability to honor more than one of US at a time.
In more modern terms, this idea of “only one at time” is also seen in the television shows that we consume. How many times have we heard the debate between shows like #blackish and #Empire? “We do not need shows like #Empire that portray negative images of Black families. #blackish is much more positive”
Why does America want us to choose between #BlackBrilliance? Why can’t we honor BOTH shows in their respective places? Not all Black families look like blackish. And not all Black families look like #Empire (although many of us probably have a #GrandmaRuby AND an #AuntieCookie somewhere down the line). But we can acknowledge BOTH shows without pitting them against each other.
This is also seen with #Scandal and #HowToGetAwayWithMurder. Now, as a necessary disclaimer, I DO NOT advocate for folks being unfaithful in their marriages. However, I can see the value in these shows with LEADING BLACK WOMEN without upholding one in an effort to cancel out the other. Have we also forgotten that BOTH shows were created by ONE #BRILLIANTBLACKWOMAN?! (#ShondalandThursdays).
Black representation matters. There are so many negative stereotypes in the media about Blackness. If we have the opportunity to provide alternative images to create these necessary conversations, then we should be able to support them without having to choose. I am not saying that we have to watch something just because it has Black characters; I am saying, however, that if you want to support more than one #BrilliantBlackGirl, you do NOT have to shame one in order to enjoy the other.
Let’s give Simone her shine. Let’s also honor that Gabby paved a way for Simone. Whether you like #blackish or #Empire, #Scandal or #HTGAWM, support #BlackExcellence. There are already enough people and things trying to tear us down.