The Miscalculation of the Black Woman

Her Own Beat’s Note: I wrote this article the night that Simone Manuel won her Olympic gold medal. I wanted to post this immediately, but I had submitted for publication  so I had to wait. It has been more than two weeks, but I believe that essence of this article still rings true.


As a purveyor of all things epitomizing #BlackGirlMagic, I am surrounded by greatness—in reality and virtually. In fact, I believe that women like First Lady Michelle Obama, Shonda Rhimes, Amandla Stenberg, Ava DuVernay, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie are all my girls.

While watching the Rio 2016 Olympics this week, I have been blessed with my shared of #BlackGirlMagic on Team USA with members such as Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Ibtihaj Muhammad, Lia Neal, and Simone Manuel. All of these women have made history within their individual sports, but their coverage has not been equal. Unfortunately, for one, there was a major miscalculation that so many black women experience—the underestimation of our skill and talent.

As I was watching NBC Olympics before the women’s 100-meter freestyle, NBC Olympics decided to air a package about the Campbell Sisters from Australia. Interesting…sure. If you blinked, however, you may not have realized that there was a woman from Team USA swimming. Manuel is a black woman and a two-time NCAA women’s swimming champion. Did I mention that she broke the American record at the 2015 NCAA championship? Yet, it seemed like NBC Olympics was more concerned about showing baby pictures of Cate and Bronte Campbell and trying to figure out if they would get the gold and silver. The USA’s own, Manuel, seemed like an afterthought.

Sometimes, however, being an afterthought is the best way to win. Neither Campbell Sister placed, but Manuel made history. She was the first African-American woman to win an individual event in Olympic swimming. The commentators may have been in shock, but Manuel’s joy was overwhelming when she realized that she had tied for gold. I cried with her as she ran and hugged her coach. I cried again as that single tear could not stop streaming down her cheek as our national anthem played during the medal ceremony.

For NBC, unfortunately, it seems like Simone Manuel was more of a non-factor. She was treated like just another black woman. Yet, Manuel, like so many black women showed her #BlackGirlMagic. She swam the race of her life with poise and power; style and strength; grace and greatness. Black women are not some complex area of mathematics where an underestimation is probable. We are not a calculus problem in which you compute our limits…for we are limitless.

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I Am Not My Hair

I Am Not My Hair by India.Arie

See, I can kinda recall a lil’ ways back

Small, tryin’ to ball, always been black

And my hair, I tried it all I even went flat

Had a lumpy curly top and all that crap, now

Just tryin’ to be appreciated

Nappy headed brothers never had no ladies

And I hit the barber shop real quick

Had ’em give me lil’ twist and it drove ’em crazy (crazy)

Then I couldn’t get no job

‘Cause corporate wouldn’t hire no dreadlocks

Then I thought about my dogs from the block

Kinda understand why they chose to steal and rob

Was it the hair that got me this far

All these girls these cribs these cars?

I hate to say it but it seem so flawed

‘Cause success didn’t come till I cut it all off


Little girl with the press and curl

Age eight, I got a Jheri curl

Thirteen, and I got a relaxer

I was a source of so much laughter

At fifteen when it all broke off

Eighteen and went all natural

February, 2002

I went on and did what I had to do

Because it was time to change my life

To become the woman that I am inside

Ninety-seven dreadlocks all gone

I looked in the mirror for the first time and saw that


Hey (hey)

I am not my hair

I am not this skin

I am not your expectations, no (hey)

I am not my hair

I am not this skin

I am the soul that lives within


Good hair means curls and waves (no)

Bad hair means you look like a slave (no)

At the turn of the century

It’s time for us to redefine who we be

You can shave it off like a South African beauty

Or get in on lock like Bob Marley

You can rock it straight like Oprah Winfrey

If it’s not what’s on your head, it’s what’s underneath, and say


Hey (hey)

I am not my hair

I am not this skin

I am not your expectations, no (hey)

I am not my hair

I am not this skin

I am the soul that lives within


Who cares if you don’t like that?

With nothin’ to lose, postin’ with the wave cap

And the cops wanna harass ’cause I got waves

Ain’t see nothin’ like that in all my days

Man, you gotta change all these feelings

Steady judging one another by their appearance

Yes, India, I feel ya, girl

Now go ahead, talk to the rest of the world ’cause


Does the way I wear my hair make me a better person?

(Whoa, whoa, whoa)

Does the way I wear my hair make me a better friend? Oh

(Whoa, whoa, whoa)

Does the way I wear my hair determine my integrity?

(Whoa, whoa, whoa)

I am expressing my creativity

(Whoa, whoa, whoa)


Breast cancer and chemotherapy

Took away her crownin’ glory

She promised God if she was to survive

She would enjoy every day of her life, oh

On national television

Her diamond eyes are sparkling

Bald-headed like a full moon shining

Singing out to the whole wide world like, hey


Hey (hey)

I am not my hair

I am not this skin

I am not your expectations, no (hey)

I am not my hair

I am not this skin

I am the soul that lives within


Hey (hey)

I am not my hair

I am not this skin

I am not your expectations, no (hey)

I am not my hair

I am not this skin

I am the soul that lives within



Written by Shannon Sanders, Alecia Moore, India Arie Simpson, Andrew Ramsey • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Gabby Douglas Has Only One Job—and It Isn’t to Fix Her Hair to Please You (Repost)

I’m so glad that Demetria Lucas D’Oyley wrote about this. It’s ridiculous that in 2016, in the midst of Trump; global warming; social and racial issues here and abroad (including in Rio); and Zika, we are superficially focused on a gold medalist’s hair. Get your life!

Gabby Douglas Only Has 1 Job—and It Isn’t to Fix Her Hair to Please You 


 

Source: The Root

“We Must”

we must bring
our own light
to the
darkness.

— Charles Bukowski, from “We Must,” Septuagenarian Stew: Stories & Poems. (Black Sparrow Press; Re-issue edition 1990)

Source: Charles Bukowski