- Post-Pandemic Education: What Worked Well with Distance Learning - July 15, 2021
- The Parable of a Teacher’s Post-Pandemic Pause - July 5, 2021
- What Teachers Can Learn from the 2021 Olympic Black Girl Magic - July 2, 2021
- When You Can't Reach Every Student: A Different Type of Teacher Guilt - June 21, 2021
- What Teachers Can Learn from Naomi Osaka - June 8, 2021
- Exploring the Commonalities Found Within Diversity in a Classroom - June 1, 2021
- The Culturally Affirming Power of Music - May 25, 2021
- Teachers Don't Need More Mugs, They Need Respect and Empathy for Teacher Appreciation Week - May 4, 2021
- Opinion: Two Men in Uniform: The Lessons Black Educators Have to Teach Students - April 29, 2021
- Inhale Adversity, Exhale Hope: Reflections of a Black Educator - April 21, 2021
“She doin’ too much!” “Do it take all that?” “Show some humility!” and the ever trending “She looks like a man!” I purposely quoted, verbatim, a handful of statements about nearly all the Black women currently killin’ the 2021 United States Olympic Trials in multiple categories.
What might surprise some readers is that this Black, Female teacher had to do her own mirror check. How is it possible that my anti-racist, culturally affirming, diversity-advocating self had to sit back and check my own prejudice, bias, and what I have coined as a “double-dutch” of thoughts and emotions when it comes to my people?
What are we teaching, as educators, if we cannot be transparent with our own issues? As Teachers of Color, we might mistakenly think that we are automatically exempt or incapable of some of the “issues” our non-BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) educators battle. My personal mirror check came when I watched Sha'Carri Richardson blaze through the 200-meter race, almost effortlessly leaving the other competitors in the dust. It was not the orange hair, nor the eyelashes, or her nails that made me pause. As for her appearance, I thought back to Jackie Joyner-Kersee and the inevitable “double-takes” she dealt with on the regular.
Transparently, it was because I knew the way she chose to celebrate would give the masses yet another reason to “hate” on us. Almost immediately, I began my “double-dutch” mixture of sheer awe, misguided judgment, back to genuine congratulations, then again to worry, about what the world would inevitably have to say. My further epiphanic moment came with the way this beautiful soul seemed to almost crumble into her grandmother’s arms after this epic race. I literally began to hum “Grandma’s Hands” by Bill Wither’s in my head. And then, like some who should have taken the time to choose wisdom and pause before posting, I watched and listened to her story.
When I thought my heartstrings could not be pulled any further, here comes Allyson Felix, who took Black Girl Magic to yet another level! Her story resonated with, and paralleled, my own life in so many ways. I felt the tears streaming uncontrollably down my face as I read her story and saw her powerful image.
Pre-mature birth of my child?
C-section scar, check.
People (and organizations) writing you off after you have a child as if you could no longer be as great, relevant, or impactful as an athlete (or teacher)?
How long will we continue to allow the beauty of motherhood to somehow be viewed as a “barrier” to women continuing to walk into everything we are destined and purposed to achieve in life? I hear the infamous lyrics of Tupac’s “Dear Mama” ringing in my soul as I write these words:
I wish I could take the pain away
If you can make it through the night, there’s a brighter day
Everything will be alright if you hold on
It's a struggle every day, gotta roll on
And there's no way I can pay you back
But my plan is to show you that I understand
You are appreciated
(Tupac Amaru Shakur, Me Against the World, 1995)
While not all these women are mothers, I feel like these lyrics could be applied to so many things they are all dealing with as Black Women in sports right now. The tremendous amount of gender issues that their stories highlight is mind-boggling. I would suggest reading “The Policing and Punishment of Black Girl Magic in Sports: The minute Black women excel, the rules change” (First and Pen, 2 June 2021). The title alone has enough in it to inspire another entire article. This piece highlights the backlash and unequal treatment Black female athletes around the world have been subjected to, both currently and in history.
“For Black sportswomen, excellence, talent, and skill are often confronted by questions, sanctions, speculation, and criticism” (First and Pen, 2 June 2021).
While these are in no way new issues, the increased boldness of “Internet Gangstas”, and the often insensitive and unapologetic nature of social media in general, has highlighted this problem to a pandemic (pun intended) level of double standards between not only the age-old male versus female athletes but Black versus non BIPOC athletes.
So, what can teachers learn from the Black Girl Magic currently sweeping the 2021 Olympics? Pay attention.
See the lessons.
Check our own bias.
The latter is arguably the hardest to achieve, but how can we teach our students about bias if we are unwilling to check our own? I end with a quote from an esteemed colleague with who I had the pleasure of working on equity in the summer of 2020. He is also one who has since led his students to take ownership in their fight to advocate for the successful re-naming of a middle school in our district. I could not have captured our call to action any better myself.“When y’all are all juiced that the USA is leading in the medal count this summer remember that Black women named Simone, Simone, Michelle, and Sha’Carri did that for you. So, keep that same energy when Simone, Simone, Michelle, and Sha’Carri… Click To Tweet
“When y’all are all juiced that the USA is leading in the medal count this summer remember that Black women named Simone, Simone, Michelle, and Sha’Carri did that for you. So, keep that same energy when Simone, Simone, Michelle, and Sha’Carri show up in your classroom”
(Guthrie Fleischman, Principal, Betty Reid Soskin Middle School, Facebook Post, 26 June 2021.)