Sha’Carri Richardson doesn’t just break records, she smashes glass ceilings
When all of Richardson’s aesthetic can be considered black, it’s a victory for us to see her atop the Olympic team.
On June 19, 21-year-old Sha’Carri Richardson solidified his place in the United States team after winning the 100-meter with a time of 10.86 seconds. As the world watched the phenomenon take its victory lap, orange hair blowing in the wind, arms outstretched, acrylic nails as long as they come, there was a certain group whose pride swelled the most: black women. .
The world was shocked on Friday when news of her suspension due to cannabis use hit the headlines, with Richardson finally apologizing for her use and explaining that she turned to marijuana after death. from his biological mother. Now Richardson could face total disqualification from his first Olympics.
The vilification of this young woman is something all too familiar to a certain group, and that is why so many black women have rallied behind her, offering our support via social media. But while we anxiously await USA Track & Field to make its final decision on Richardson’s Olympic fate in 2021, there is another double standard story that needs to be told.
His recent record breaking races and catapult to the world stage could mean that the world is finally ready to recognize that those of us with shiny hair and long nails are still more than capable of being outstanding leaders in our professions. Hair, nails, and cosmetics serve as convenient breed substitutes for many people. When all of Richardson’s aesthetic can be considered black, it’s a victory for us to see her atop the Olympic team.
Many black women who choose to wear their hair and nails like Richardson cannot be successful in the job market because research shows that women who keep their hair natural are less likely to get a job. For years, black women have been ridiculed, ostracized and persecuted for the way we choose to wear our hair and nails, as if our cosmetic choices directly correlate with our values or work ethic. Former WJTV presenter Brittany Noble who was fired for wearing her natural hair on the air; to Chastity Jones, an Alabama woman whose job offer was canceled because her dreadlocks were deemed to violate the company’s grooming policy, unfair policing of our hair choices puts black women in a box and raises an already high glass ceiling in the name of “professionalism.” ”
Richardson’s fingernails have also attracted undue attention, and this isn’t the first time a stellar black runner’s fingers have been more important to audiences than her feet. Florence Griffith Joyner, often known as Flo-Jo, is the fastest woman of all time, winning five Olympic medals and setting records for the women’s 100 and 200 meters, which she still holds today. ‘hui. Sadly, Flo-Jo’s nails surpassed many of her other accomplishments – she was called a “glamourpuss” for four-inch tiger striped nails at the 1988 Olympic trials, and the press often focused on his style rather than his athleticism.
For many black women, going to the nail salon is more than just choosing their favorite color or design. It’s also weighing the pros and cons of what an employer or leader might think of them because of their fingernails. In fact, Twitter is full of thoughts of black women on the property of long nails. A mother described her girl nails being called “ghetto” by a teacher before celebrating how proud she was of her college graduate daughter. Whites might need to read between the lines of these statements, but as a black woman, I haven’t escaped the connection between her daughter’s fingernails and her ultimate success. We know that we are losing opportunity and momentum because of our cosmetic choices.
– USATF (@usatf) June 19, 2021
Professionalism as we know it is rooted in a Western standard of acceptability. This is why men are supposed to wear suits to work instead of kaftans or why baseball caps are the norm while kufi caps draw an inquisitive look. “Professionalism has become a coded language for white favoritism in workplace practices that most often prioritize the values of white and Western employees and leave people of color behind,” Aysa Gray wrote in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.
This is why laws such as the CROWN Act, which prohibits racial discrimination based on hair texture and hairstyles, had to be introduced. Blacks had to create legislation to allow their hair to be worn as it naturally grows from their scalp – and in 2020 alone, 25 states considered but did not pass the legislation. .
In 2016, I got a position with the mayor of Dallas Rawlings as part of the Grow South initiative. At the time, I was 23 and my hair was bright red. Aside from the looks I received upon entering meetings, I also received a lot of unsolicited advice from well-meaning Elders to “soften” my hair. No matter my ambition, diligence, integrity, or commitment to the citizens of South Dallas, it was almost as if they couldn’t hear me because of my hair color.
Pulitzer Prize winner Nikole Hannah-Jones, who also sports crisp red hair, tweeted a similar thought: “My hair color really makes some of you so crazy because it goes against your classist and misogynistic notions of what a successful black woman should look like. I refuse to wear the uniform and all in. my look is intentional.
“Nothing that I accept in myself can be used against me to diminish me. I am who I am, I do what I came to do.” You Audre Lorde.
– Ida Bae Wells (@nhannahjones) June 24, 2021
The game of respectability politics that black people are supposed to play to be deemed “professional enough” must change. I now work as a development associate at For Oak Cliff, a community organization in Dallas, and I often wonder if our donors would look at me any differently if my hair was still this bright red color. Would they think that I am less capable or less trustworthy?
For a white, pink-haired woman like Therese Tucker, the CEO of BlackLine who launched her business at a billion-dollar IPO, hair color doesn’t seem to matter at all. For many women, our professional performance includes irrelevant considerations like our hair and nails, regardless of their color. This type of appearance-based misogyny affects all women, but it disproportionately affects black women.
Richardson’s acceptance comes with an allowance for what are considered unusual choices, which are not available to everyone. Musician Aja Graydon summed up the feelings of many black women perfectly: “A sweet reminder to love and encourage black girls with orange hair, long nails, tattoos and eyelashes, even when they are not. not the fastest woman in the country.
This is what we all need to do. Remember, there are young women who aren’t in Vogue, The New York Times, or People Magazine but still sport long orange hair, voluminous eyelashes, tattoos, and long colored nails – and they need us to win like us’ Carri Richardson.
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