The 2016 Olympics Were A Showcase For Young Black Women’s Excellence
Simone Biles. Simone Manuel. Michelle Carter. Claressa Shields. Allyson Felix. Ibtihaj Muhammad. These are just some of the names of Black women who excelled on the world’s biggest stage in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
It feels as if this round of games came as fast as they went. And while there were plenty of wonderful and inspiring moments to last us until we do it all over again in a few years, the brightest ones often came from the accomplishments of talented Black women who repeatedly stole the show.
When the games started, Michael Phelps, the greatest Olympic swimmer of all-time, carried the U.S. flag into the stadium as a way to honor his last attempt at gold. During the closing ceremony, Simone Biles, the newly-crowned best gymnast in the entire world, carried the flag. It could be seen as a passing of the torch of sorts, as she was the first woman’s gymnast to ever do so, according to NewsOne. But it could also be seen as an acknowledgement of Black women’s complete domination of the Olympics this year.
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) August 22, 2016
If you believe in the idea of public consciousness coming in waves, it’s hard to ignore that we’re currently in the middle of one. As the Black Lives Matter movement becomes more prominent, so does its criticism. More recognizable names are being brought into the fold as they learn that they can’t really avoid social justice issues as they used to.
While it wouldn’t be surprising if historians and revisionists later try to view these games outside of the appropriate political context, they’ll likely fail. The stories are just so much better with the extra attention to detail. Ibtihaj Muhammad was the first U.S. Olympian to ever compete in a hijab. Classesa Shields comes from Flint, Mi. and won gold at two consecutive Olympics in boxing. Simone Manuel may have single-handedly broke the stereotype of Black people not knowing how to swim. These aren’t even all the examples of Black women owning the Olympics this year.
Once again, Black women have come to our rescue when we – in the most general sense imaginable – needed them most. Let’s get these women their own parades, holidays and endorsement deals because they’ve more than earned it. If this year is any example, we should expect the unexpected from Black women Olympians for many years to come.
Photo credit: Simone Biles (Twitter)