Stereotypes and misunderstandings litter the American landscape in just about every societal aspect. It is an unfortunate byproduct of living in a multiethnic, multiracial, multicultural society. 

Can Black girls swim? Can Black girls dominate Women's gymnastics on a world stage? These are but a few of the questions that have been fired upon the aspirations of now-Olympic medalists Simone Manuel, Lia Neal and Simone Biles. Though Dominique Dawes won three medals at the Atlanta Summer Olympics in 1996, no black woman had ever won Olympic gold in swimming.

Nothing ever occurs in a vacuum in contemporary society. We ride upon the intentions and sensibilities of those who came before us. That goes for athletes and journalists alike. It is the different belief system of those he came before us that act as the musical notes of our modern day song, and not all of those notes go together. As far as the American "song" goes, many of those early notes were racist.

Today, we're trying to sort out those notes that are offending to our ears in honing a more harmonious union. But transitioning from a shrieking, jarring, incapable pile of random sounds into a symphony of enlightenment has been arduous. This year's political cycle, and all of its repulsive demagogues, as well as the racial realities revealed in the recent shooting deaths of Philandro Castile and Alton Sterling and the recent deaths of police officers in Baton Rouge and Dallas, respectively, are a reflection of that.

Image title

You know it like a poet that The Shadow League has been all over this angle like Houston smog from our inception. Back in April 2015, our J.R. Gamble wrote of the exploits of Brooklyn-bred Olympic swimmer Lia Neal in the 2012 London Summer Olympics in the Women's 4 x 100 freestyle relay, and her dreams of winning gold in the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics in an article titled Our Game 2: Lia Neal Is A 20-year Old Olympic Medal-Winning Pioneer.

"Before I ever started taking swim lessons, we lived by a public pool that was located two or three blocks from us in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. It's an outdoor pool. I remember I used to go there and splash around with my mom and dad," she said.

Image title

Additionally, fellow Stanford undergraduate Simone Manual was making waves and taking names down in Texas but was not at the Olympics in London after finishing low at the 2012 United States Olympic Trials. But perseverance and persistence brought her to the top of her game and into the hearts and minds of swimming enthusiasts everywhere.

Back in 2015, Neal and Manuel were joined by Natalie Hinds of the University of Florida to become the first three women of African descent to sweep the podium in the 100m freestyle at the Women's Division I Championship. Historic stuff, indeed.

This year, their hand-in-hand march toward history continued as they won the silver medal in the 4 x 100m freestyle relay.

For swimmers, long arms and legs are just a few attributes coaches look for when recruiting and molding talent. Successful gymnasts must have powerful cores and strong legs. But race and cultural background are never a predictor of success in any sport.


With their success, Neal and Manuel will inspire the next generation of Olympic swimmers looking to rise above assumptions and stereotypes to do their very best to bring home the gold, but Simone Biles' ascension and Olympic rise was pre-dated by the road paved by Gabby Douglas before her.

Douglas, who won the All-Around gold and a Team gold in London, earned a Team gold this year but was eliminated from defending her title in the All-Around due to being eliminated after earning a 60.131 - third best score of all countries competing.

Unfortunately, only two athletes from each country are allowed in the finals. She was less than half a point behind teammate Aly Raisman. Some experts believe Raisman's routine was more difficult than Gabby's, thus her higher score. When Simone Biles finished 1st it in effect eliminated her teammate and predecessor.

Douglas, who won the All-Around gold and a Team gold in London, earned a Team gold this year but was eliminated from defending her title in the All-Around due to being eliminated after earning a 60.131 - third best score of all countries competing.

Image title

Biles won the All-Around portion of the competition and brought home the gold. This marks the first time women of African descent won the All-Around gold medal in consecutive Olympic Games. Indeed, majestic.

Indeed, poised. Indeed, magical.


Image title

(Photo Credit: USA Today)

These young women represent only a small portion of the Black Girl Magic that continues to waft over these Olympic Games. Michelle Carter, aka "the Shot Diva", is also a professional makeup artist who became the first U.S. Olympic women's shot put gold medalist and the first American woman to win an Olympic medal in the event since Earlene Brown won the bronze in 1960.  

Image title

(Photo Credit: newyorker.com)

We're still waiting on Ibtihaj Muhammad to represent in fencing this weekend. Black Girl Magic is real. There should be no question at this point. However, a question of great importance to needless critics and haters, both White and Black, is 'Why're you mad, though?'