I know the past week in Rio didn't go the way you imagined it, and I feel for you.
I wasn't a particularly good athlete. Most of my teammates spent their summers in youth soccer leagues, dance classes and sports camps, while I was playing outside with my cousins. What I lacked in skill, I made up for in heart. I'd try anything and give it my all. When no one signed up to run the longer distances, I did it. For the team.
I ran the mile and the half-mile, racked up personal bests, and if I won, it was by default. There were no Olympics in my future, but that wasn't a dream of mine. I just wanted to be a part of something. After moving to Wisconsin two years prior, and being bullied for being one of the only black kids in my school, I was happy. I belonged to something. I was the proudest Horny Leprechaun.
During a track meet one day, it was cold and drizzling. I huddled in the hood of my sweatshirt, protecting my hair at all costs. I couldn't keep the hood on during my run, so when I finished, I realized it that it had frizzed into a poofy mess. And there wasn't much I could do to fix it.
Suddenly, this leprechaun was the once again the black girl who'd been viciously teased for her braids, her skin color and her differences. It hurt, and it was the type of hurt that might change you even if you don't want it to.
I eventually went on to become a cheerleader throughout high school. The team unity was there, but for me it was always different and a little isolating.
So when I saw the comments about your hair. I felt for you. I hurt for you, even though can't begin to comprehend how it feels to receive hate on an international scale. I’m older now, so hopefully, I can offer some perspective: For every foul-mouthed asshole hiding behind the distance and anonymity of the Internet, there are dozens of little girls that see your poise, grace and power and are inspired by it.
For every jerk who's suddenly a gymnastics critic even though they even can't do a cartwheel, there are hundreds of little black girls who see that your hair is just like theirs, and it, you and they are beautiful.
For every idiot who wonders why your hand wasn't over your heart even though you competed and won with in our stars and stripes, there are millions of people who are in awe of your hard work, talent, strength and sacrifice.
You, Simone Biles, Laurie Hernandez, the Final Five, and all of Team USA are the best of America. I am ashamed that you were blindsided by the worst.
You have proven that Black Girl Magic is golden three times over, and nothing will ever tarnish that.
Photo Credit: newsweek.com