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Let's Celebrate, Not Hate, the #BlackGirlMagic

Let's Celebrate, Not Hate, the #BlackGirlMagic

Black women Olympians

There is so much to criticize -- why are our black women Olympians getting the shade? 

Just a few weeks ago, a U.S. congressman questioned the contributions America's subcultures (read: nonwhite people) have made to Western civilization. Many took him to task for his comments, including The Advocate, but some of the fiercest clapbacks came in the deeds of some of America's finest athletes and their presence at the 2016 Rio Olympics. But even being an Olympic athlete and achieving historical moments hasn't shielded some from criticism.

In the world of continuous coverage, everything has become a story and everyone has something to say. The Olympics have been no exception. Gabby Douglas, reduced to tears after despicable criticism on social media, caught the attention of Saturday Night Live's Leslie Jones, who created the #Love4GabbyUSA hashtag to rally people around the two-time Olympian. A commentator threw unnecessary shade at Simone Biles's family by refusing to accept a different definition of parents. And Michelle Carter's shot diva fabulosity as a female shotputter is shattering stereotypes about body image, femininity, and female athleticism. Why the hate? No one questioned Michael Phelps's sportsmanship when he looked all gruff for the camera, and people seem to not even be bothered that Ryan Lochte might have misrepresented a whole nation to save face.

MSNBC's Joy Ann Reid wrote in TheWashington Post that in addition to the "stellar moments of achievement by African-American women ... these games also underscored ongoing challenges in race, representation and athletics in America." Reid explained that the unfair critiques now are a part of a long history of fighting for inclusion and visibility, and the high expectations that black women face in such visible roles.

When we talk about inclusion, that buzzword that talks about representation of diverse communities and experiences, it exactly means having possibility models in all aspects of the American experience. Diverse voices and experiences help shape the future of our country. And all those women mentioned earlier -- Olympic medalists. Some of them firsts in their sport. And not just for black people, but for American women. That is history.

And the history and magic keep coming. Ibtihaj Muhammad won a bronze medal competing in the team sabre competition, a first for a woman wearing hijab. And for the first time ever, three American women -- Brianna Rollins, Nia Ali, and Kristi Castlin -- swept the medals in the 100-meter hurdles. No country has ever pulled that off before.

Being in the public eye opens one up for critique, sure, when something warrants it. Whether Gabby Douglas puts her hand over her heart is no one's concern but hers. But these women simply came and put their heart into Rio, like thousands of athletes did from around the world. Who cares about hair? And why wouldn't a shotput thrower look strong no matter the athlete's gender? That ball is heavy and they throw it far, surely requiring more powerful muscles than currently on this reporter's body.

As someone who loves the Olympics and the global phenomenon that captivates us every two years, and someone who looks at everything through the diversity lens, this year's athletes seemed to truly represented a cross section of communities who call the United States home. And as a country, we celebrated their victories as ours. A bit of positivity across the nation when there hasn't been a lot to celebrate.

But once they extinguish the flame this weekend, the reality comes back. A reality where we're still dealing with an epidemic of state violence against black and brown people, especially those who are LGBT.

We're still mourning for Korryn Gaines, Rae'Lynn Thomas, and all the women lost to violence. And we aren't doing enough to stop it.

If we really enjoyed seeing the #BlackGirlMagic and all the magic on display at the Olympic games, let's take the care to make sure more people can reach their "Olympic dream" -- even if that dream has nothing to do with sports.

Let's make sure that more youth can access extracurricular activities without worrying about high costs and closing programs. Let's create more pathways so that we can have possibility models to give all young people somewhere to set their sights.

We do want to get to the day when we are no longer celebrating breaking racial barriers or breaking gender barriers -- but today, we still have more to break. And thanks to a superdose of #BlackGirlMagic, a few more are now history.

But as Mary J said, don't need no hateration.

Gabby Douglas: Two-time Olympian, 2012 gold medal women's gymnastics individual and team all around, 2016 gold medal team all-around.

Simone Biles: Three-time all around gold world champion, five total medals in Rio, including four gold.

Michelle Carter: Two-time Olympian, defending world champion and 2016 Rio gold medalist in shotput.

Simone Manuel: Four total medals in Rio, including two gold. First African-American to win an individual swimming gold medal.

Ibtihaj Muhammad: Medalist in women's team sabre, first African-American and Muslim woman to medal.

Venus Williams: Four-time tennis gold medalist and one of two tennis players with five Olympic tennis medals.

Allyson Felix: Most decorated woman in track and field history; seven total career Olympic medals.

Brianna Rollins: Gold medalist in 100-meter hurdles, part of historic medal sweep.

Nia Ali: Silver medalist in 100-meter hurdles, part of historic medal sweep.

Kristi Castlin: Bronze medalist in 100-meter hurdles, part of historic medal sweep.

ORIE GIVENS is a writer for The Advocate, focusing on issues of race.

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