This is for all the girls with an apostrophe in their name.
This is for all the girls who are “too loud” and “too emotional.”
This is for all the girls who are constantly asked, “Oh, what did you do with your hair? That’s new.”
This is for my Black girls.
Let me tell you a story, and maybe you can relate. It started with a birthday party. (How come it feels like so much drama always happens at birthday parties?!?!)
I was in the fourth grade in Hopkins, South Carolina. A place where the Confederate flag could be seen around every corner. Hanging in restaurants, on bumpers — hell, it flew over the State House. It was just a thing you saw everywhere. When you’re a kid, you don’t really get it. The world is a friendly place, right? You take what people say at face value. Your friends are your friends. You love what you love. It’s all good!
I was always able to learn better in small classrooms. So my parents sent me to this private school called Heathwood. It was probably 10% Black at the time, so most of my friends were white. Didn’t think anything of it. We had our little crew that was inseparable. So then one of my friends’ birthdays rolls around, and it was a whole thing at school. Everyone was like, “Ohmygod, did you hear about so-and-so’s party? I’m so going!”
Courtesy of A'ja Wilson
Then one day, so-and-so pulls me aside and she says, “You’re coming to my party right?”
And I’m like, “Yeah!”
And then she drops the bomb on me. She says, “Well, you might have to stay outside.”
And I’m like, “Outside? What are we talking about, camping? Is it at a camp or something?”
And she’s like, “No, it’s at my house. But my dad doesn’t really like Black people, so….”
It was so matter-of-fact. It wasn’t like one of those Very Special Episodes on Nickelodeon, you know what I mean? It was just … “My dad doesn’t really like Black people.”
I was just staring at her like … huh?
It didn’t seem real. That’s my friend! It ain’t nothing else! We did everything together.
It was so sad, but so important to learn that lesson at such a young age. Because it was the first time that I realized, Oh, O.K., you’re not just a girl. You’re a Black girl. And some people don’t like you because of that.
No one’s story is exactly the same. But every Black girl, at some point in her life, has her own version of The Birthday Party. That’s why I’m writing this to you. I know what it’s like to feel like you’ve been swept under the rug. I know what it feels like to not be heard, not be seen, not be taken seriously.
And then when you finally do raise your voice … what do they call you?I know what it’s like to feel like you’ve been swept under the rug.
Sometimes it feels like you can’t win, right? Well, all I’m here to tell you is that I hearyou. You are not alone, just know that.
I FEEL YOU.
The truth is, we’re a double minority. It’s like the world is constantly reminding us….
You’re a girl.
Oh! And you’re a Black girl.
Alright, good luck!
When I was growing up, the hardest part for me was that when I looked around I didn’t see anyone who looked like me. If my school was 10% Black, it was probably 3% Black girls. All the teachers — shout-out to them — were white. Except one. We had one Black female teacher. I’ll give you five seconds to guess what all the kids called her.
“The mean one.”
You got it. You know the story. She was the mean one. Most kids and parents had probably never even met the woman, but it was always, “Ohhhhh, you don’t wanna go to that class. That’s an awful class.”
It was an introduction to the way the world works for Black women. And let me tell you, it was a lesson that I never stopped learning, even when I went to play basketball at the University of South Carolina for the living legend, Dawn Staley.
Now, I need to warn you that Coach is like my second mom, so I’m going to be a little bit biased. I’m going to go off a little bit here. But I’m here to tell you nothing but the unapologetic truth — so, sorry not sorry.
It seems like no matter how successful you are, or how strong, or how many lives you’ve changed, or how many banners you’ve got hanging….
If you’re a Black woman in this country, especially in the South?
It’s always this vibe of, “I’m going to tell the real boss on you.”
Coach Staley is the real boss. You’re talking about a woman who won three Olympic gold medals for our country. You’re talking about a six-time WNBA All-Star. You’re talking about a Naismith winner as a player and a coach.
She’s the ultimate boss.
Frank Franklin II/AP Images
And I’ve still seen it happen with her. When we won the NCAA championship in 2017, you know what we heard almost immediately? We’re talking about the first women’s basketball championship in the state of South Carolina. And you know what it was, almost before we could even get the banner up in the rafters?
“Coach Staley doesn’t recruit white players. Why doesn’t she recruit our white girls?”
You had a team of 12 Black girls working their tails off. No, working their asses off. To achieve history. Under a Black female head coach. And it still felt like a significant part of our community didn’t want to celebrate it fully. On social media, it was the worst. Pure hatred. Pure nonsense. But I don’t know, maybe all that hate was coming from down the road at Mississippi State, because we sure did beat y’all a lot!! 😉
I’m just keeping it unapologetic!
I warned you!
At the end of the day, Black girls all across the country need to hear the truth. They need to know what they’re in for. Most of the time, we don’t get “the talk.” The boys get that. They get told about how they’re seen as a threat to police, about how to navigate the world, about how to just survive.
And that’s very necessary. But what do the Black girls get?
No really, I’ll let you think. I’m sure the answer is different for everybody.
I hate it that we have to become a hashtag in order for society to be like, “Oh, we loveour Black queens! Yaasss!”
No. It’s not good enough. We don’t want to be some meme or whatever. We don’t want to be the Angry Black Woman or the Aggressive Black Woman. We just want to be seen as human beings in this world. We just want to be heard when we speak. We just want to be respected.I don’t want to have to be UNAPOLOGETIC for you to hear me.
I don’t want to have to be UNAPOLOGETIC for you to hear me.
I want to be able to whisper, if I want to.
I want to just be a professional, to just do my thing on the court and when I’m scrolling through my feed I want to see faces that look like mine.
Where were the 32–1 South Carolina Gamecocks on SportsCenter?
Where were all those Black women in your feed?
So many people in America want to tell you, “Oh, just work hard and — actually — it’s all an even playing field!”
No 1. ranked.
Where were those women?
Yeah. You know what it is. We still got a long way to go.
And that’s alright to acknowledge. That’s alright to tell our Black girls who are just figuring out the way this world works, who are just experiencing their first Birthday Party Situation.
That’s why I’m writing this. Consider it my unofficial version of The Talk.
I don’t have all the answers. But I just want to tell you that I feel you. I’ve been through it, too. I’ve been angry and humiliated and belittled and unheard. I’ve been really down and lost, at certain points in my life.
But you know what?
Didn’t stop me.
I made myself heard.
I even made the ESPN camera crew come to my high school on signing day so I could put on my GAMECOCKS hat just like the boys do and still got pushback.
“We’re not sure if we can get a crew out there on short notice. It might be complicated.”
Nah. Y’all got Google Maps.
I didn’t back down, because I wanted all the little girls out there who love basketball to be flipping channels and say, “Oh. I see you.”
To their credit, they got a crew down to South Carolina, and it was one of the best days of my life.
But here’s the thing. Here’s my final thing.
To all my Black girls out there.…
If you remember one thing from this letter, remember this.
You don’t have to be a WNBA player or a politician or a celebrity to have an impact on someone else.You don’t have to be a WNBA player or a politician or a celebrity to have an impact on someone else.
I remember when I was in the fourth grade, after that whole humiliating birthday party thing, I felt really alone. My friends didn’t look like me. My teachers didn’t look like me. But every day when I went to lunch, I used to get really excited standing in the line with my little plastic tray.
That was like the highlight of my day, because I saw my favorite lunch lady.
She was the only person in the room who looked like me.
She would smile and put some mashed potatoes on my plate, and that was our little moment every afternoon.
Hey, we’re here. I see you. I got you.
Keep on fighting, Black girls.
I see you. I got you.
P.S. This is my last contribution to The Talk.
If somebody asks you, “Can I touch your hair?”
The answer is no.