Sha’Carri Richardson is the newest poster child for the obstacles every Black person in America faces—especially in the public school system.
Let me get this out the way, first. Everybody that dragged sis after learning she’d been disqualified from the Olympics for testing positive for marijuana use is trash as hell.
Y’all awful asses have the nerve to be “disappointed” in her as if your shit has always smelled like the entryway to Bath and Body Works. Well, I suggest y’all take another whiff—a hearty one, breathing in through your nose and catching the smell in your mouth—and I guarantee you’ll find that your shit does in fact stink.
The same judgment and shame are projected on Black kids all around the country. It’s like they have to live in these polar opposite universes of being the stereotypes the world sees them as or these perfect specimens that are charged with representing the entire Black community with no grey area in between—which I call the grace and human space. This is the exact same expectation placed on Black kids in the public education system.
But sadly, we’re no strangers to this type of behavior. The minute Black kids first walk into a classroom, they undergo the same judgment based on how they look and where they’re from—which can affect how far they go.
Y’all remember the term “implicit bias,” right? It’s basically the practice of employing subconscious prejudices under the influence of stereotypes or personal experiences in dealings with other people or groups. Just wanted to drop that because its prevalence seems to have gotten lost in all of this fake diversity, equity and inclusion talk.
So just like little Black boys and girls entering biased and deficit-based classrooms, as soon as Sha’Carri stepped on the scene with her long colorful hair and nails, her south Dallas “vernacular” and “Black Girl Magic” attitude, she was the target of implicit bias—despite her undeniable talent and ability to compete and win.
And listen, I’m not here to argue whether or not she broke the rules, because I think any rational person would agree that she did. But given the fact that it’s 2021 and weed is being legalized everywhere, I question how reasonable those rules are. I mean hell, people who are supposed to protect us, uphold, implement and administer laws put all kinds of shit up their noses on a daily basis with no reprimand, but athletes are expected to be perfect? They aren’t allowed grace as human beings? I digress.
Let’s sideline the fact that Sha’Carri is a 21-year-old Black girl who was all of a sudden thrust into the spotlight with an unsolicited responsibility to represent the entire Black community while facing worldwide scrutiny for how she looks. Pause that for a second and sit in the reality that this young woman had just lost her mother and found out about it during a media interview.
As unreasonable as those antiquated Olympic guidelines are, it is also unreasonable to expect someone to function normally under the grief of losing a parent—and I speak from experience. But, all people could say is, “She knew the rules—now she has to face the consequences.”
The public school system operates the same way, with its lack of grace and empathy. It’ll penalize our kids for “acting out” because they’re starving and aggravated because they haven’t eaten since they left school the day before, traumatized from witnessing excessive violence, sleep-deprived from taking care of their siblings overnight or having to work jobs themselves.
This limited extent of empathy and understanding is evident in how resources are distributed, with many schools in low-income communities having more cops than counselors. And when our kids “make the mistake” of coming in human one too many times, they’re labeled as lost causes, discarded and left for the mass incarceration system to “handle”—just like Sha’Carri was tossed out of the Olympics this go-round.
I wish sis wouldn’t have supplemented her reasons for doing what she did with an apology—she didn’t and doesn’t owe anybody a damn thing. Instead, we owe her—and all of the little Black girls and boys trying to meet an impossible bar of perfection—compassion, grace, support and loyalty because they’re, like us, imperfect and allowed to make mistakes. And I hope that they one day learn to live their lives and talents unapologetically, with the understanding that their success should be defined by no one else but them.
Keep running, sis.
Tanesha Peeples is driven by one question in her work—“If not me, then who?” As the former Deputy Director of Activist Development for brightbeam, Tanesha merges the worlds of communications and grassroots activism to push for change in the public education system. Her passion for community and relentless mission for justice and liberation drive her in uplifting and amplifying the voices and ...