Black women are consistently failed on a regular basis and organized sports is no different. Time and time again, we have seen black women athletes surpass expectations and limitations put on their careers and still get half the recognition or praise as their male counterparts. There have been numerous occurrences where racism and sexism prevail instead of the women athletes being seen for their hard work and talents.
“I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Philips…I’m the first Simone Biles.” From the mouth of one of the arguably greatest gymnasts of all time Simone Biles. This was in response to Biles being sick of being compared to the dominant male athletes in 2016. Biles was sick of commentators comparing her moment to other male athletes’ and making her moment when breaking records less about her and shining the light on other well-known men athletes. Biles is the first woman to win four gold medals in a single outing; this hasn’t been accomplished since 1984.
Another well-known athlete that just retired is Serena Williams, who has been playing tennis for practically all her life. Williams spoke on numerous occasions about being underpaid and undervalued because of being a black woman in a European male dominated sport. Williams has spoken up on multiple occasions on controversial topics that not only affect her but the community that she is a part of. Being a woman athlete of color, feeling undervalued and underappreciated, Black Lives Matter movement, body positivity, and female empowerment are a few examples of this.
“Being the voice the millions of people don’t have” while showing “women and people of color that we have a voice”. Williams shows her intersectionality with this statement, seeing that she is a part of two marginalized communities and making it her responsibility to be a spokesperson for both. This shows how much work truly still needs to be done with racism and misogyny still running rampant despite the efforts over the years.
This isn’t all Williams had to say when discussing the Black Lives Matters movement in an interview. “I had so many people who were white writing to me saying, ‘I’m sorry for everything you’ve had to go through’… think for a minute they started – not to understand because I don’t think you can understand – but they started to see. I was like: well, you didn’t see any of this before? I’ve been talking about this my whole career. It’s been one thing after another,” Williams said. It takes extreme courage to use your platform and voice for those that don’t have one, especially with her already being under-appreciated and undervalued.
In conclusion, black women in any field, especially as professional athletes, must work twice as hard for one fourth of the recognition. Situations such as Biles stepping down from the Olympics due to mental and not being scored correctly because of being too “good” at her sport illustrate this, as does Serena Williams being paid significantly less than her male counterparts. These are just a few incidents with the common denominator being black women athletes being devalued and having so much expected from them at the same time.