Cast your mind back to last month where across the world was a state of euphoria and national pride as the Rio Olympics took place, rival countries rallied together to show unity and future mini olympians found themselves engrossed in the TV, inspired by everything that was taking place. Now, I want you to remind yourself of something very specific and that is the United States Gymnastics team; a team so diverse and special that they became the main focus of the Olympics. The U.S Gymnastics team consists of girls such as Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles, Laurie Hernandez and Aly Raisman. These girls are not just exceptionally talented at their sport but they also paved the way for ethnic minorities, in particular females at the games. I usually aim to catch some of the olympics every year but this was the first time that I actually felt connected to the athletes, and was also the first time that i saw girls on tv that I could relate to; who looked like me.
It is suffice to say that the Olympics were the epitome of black girl magic.
Biles has been heavily commended for her role in the Olympics with some even going as far to call her the Micheal Jordan of Gymnastics. That is a very well deserved title as she left the games heavily decorated with medals after winning gold in the Women’s vault, Women’s floor and the Women’s team all around; maybe that is even an understatement of just how much she has achieved. Let us just take a moment to see that the greatest female gymnast in the world is an African-American which isn’t something we see often. The presence of black athletes at the Olympics was so empowering that black parents all around the world began to showcase just how much it had impacted their children. From young girls claiming they wanted to be gymnasts to athletes, it was actually quite beautiful to watch it all blossom and see all these little faces light up because they finally had someone to look up to.
“It is very interesting to see black women going into areas where you really don’t see black women competing, with all different body shapes, complexions and hairstyles being represented,” said Kaye Wise Whitehead, a professor at Loyola University who studies race and gender. “Black women see and feel that there is no door closed to us … and that we’re not just walking through those doors, but we’re dominating.
For centuries, the black woman has found herself at the centre of discrimination and persecution. Often pushed to the back burner, whilst their caucasian peers get all the accreditation and for a long time this was the reality in sport. Thus, it is quite a big deal to have ethnic minorities taking such charge as they have this year. It wasn’t just Gymnastics that saw ethnic minorities dominating as Michelle Carter became the first American female to win the shot put and was the first woman to win the sport since 1960.
For those who do not understand the importance of Black Girl Magic need to know that there was a time when Black people were banned from sport and if given the opportunity to play in the Olympics, they were often secluded from their other teammates. After doing some more research, I found that in the 1932 Olympics black athletes Tidye Pickett- a hurdler and Louise Stokes- a sprinter were often forced to stay in an attic apartment away from their teammates. On the other hand, eighteen black athletes in the 1936 Olympics were denied recognition when they returned home to America.
That was then and this is now, times are changing and black girl magic is now a prevalent part of sport, as well as everyday life and will likely continue to be.