Simone Biles and Black Sportswomen Are Amazing But Not Unbreakable

by Shine My Crown Staff
Voiced by Amazon Polly

As the Olympic Games proceeded, eyes were increasingly focused on the incredible Simone Biles.

There are many words to describe Biles: Black, woman, superstar, G.O.A.T., even superhuman. The latter is a term that, while intended to be flattering, can actually be dehumanizing when put into context.

Black people across the diaspora have been and continue to be referred to as subhuman or superhuman as a means of justification. The former for the mistreatment of Black people- criminalization, incarceration, adultification, and brutalization. The latter for the valorization or lionization of Black athletes, who can seemingly do things that other athletes are not capable of.

Such ways of seeing Black folks, however, limit our humanity, making it easier for these patterns to continue.

When Jack Johnson, the Galveston Giant, knocked out Tommie Burns in December of 1908 and became the heavyweight champion of the world, the Black athlete was born. Yet this birth faced persistent obstacles and challenges.

It is difficult to deny the ways in which Black athletes are used up until they expire. Then they are discarded and replaced with little or no thought to those who preceded them. In the words of the scholar-activist Dr. Harry Edwards, “like a piece of equipment, the Black athlete is used.”

While it’s easy to argue that sports is a meritocracy in which all athletes are created equal, it’s naive and disingenuous to ignore the ways that race, gender, and class shape the lived experiences of athletes.

Simone Biles has been deemed superhuman.

Continue reading over at First and Pen.

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