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.