Zaila Avant-garde makes history with Spelling Bee: How long will it take before goalpost moves?
Why do the rules change every time black women come out on top?
When I first heard the news of Zaila Avant-garde being the first African-American to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 93 editions of the competition, I wish my first emotion was pride. Admiration should’ve been a close second. Instead of either of those responses, my initial thought was cynicism. I’m just waiting to see how long it’ll take for someone to move the goalpost again.
I watched it happen with Simone Biles in 2019 and this year. Instead of being celebrated for landing a Yurchenko double pike vault, the four-time Olympic gold medalist’s achievement was ignored. Authorities felt it was so challenging — and no woman had ever tried to do it in the competition before — that they chose to score her on her less-difficult moves.
It’s like telling someone with a perfect 1,600 SAT score that you’re only going to compare them to the bare minimum of 400 because — who gets a 1,600? Way to aim low. Additionally the International Gymnastics Federation pre-assigns scores based on the difficulty level and then just docks points from that potential. But someone like Biles goes above and beyond, and the whole ordeal is treated like “meh.”
Writer’s note: This was written before the ridiculous beef with Allyson Felix started on Aug. 25. Now I don’t know what in the world to say about Sha’Carri Richardson.
Then out of nowhere comes random shots at the late and legendary Flo-Jo. Although I didn’t do much more than yawn at Twitter user Claire Lehmann’s take on anything — especially black women athletes — as soon as I started seeing the comparisons between Florence Griffith Joyner and Sha’Carri Richardson, I knew the ball was about to drop. So I couldn’t even feign surprise when Richardson didn’t make the cut to compete in the Olympics in Tokyo this year.
Why? CNN reports that she was suspended for one month from the Olympic team after testing positive for Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a chemical found in marijuana.
To put it bluntly, I smoked weed off and on during college. The only thing I wanted to do was lean against the nearest wall, stare into space and eat tortilla chips. I graduated Cum Laude anyway and attended the eighth largest private not-for-profit university in the country. (The only reason I didn’t finish my master’s was because my full-time publishing job was exactly what I wanted the degree for, and then the newspaper jobs started rolling in.) Weed didn’t stop me from a damn thing, besides losing money on tortilla chips. So the fact that Richardson won the 2019 NCAA title (10.75 seconds) and ran a personal best (10.72 seconds in April) is outstanding, and I believe weed is completely beside the point.