(WBTV) - Simone Manuel. Not many knew who the Sugarland, TX native was before she swam her way into the history books last night in Rio.
Hours later and I'm still UNBELIEVABLY hype about and her history-making swim.
Oh, and today USA Swimming confirmed the Simone is the first black woman from ANY COUNTRY to win a gold medal in an individual Olympic swimming event.
Clearly, this 20 year old Stanford University standout deserves all of the accolades she's getting!
But just in case you're wondering why her historic swim is such a BIG deal - you need to understand it in its proper historical context.
- African Americans were prohibited from public swimming pools well into the 1960s. (NPR's Gene Demby explains)
- In 1953, Frontier Hotel in Vegas drained the pool because actress Dorothy Dandridge dipped her toe in it. Her TOE.
- Documented instances across the country of how black people were treated like a Florida motel manager throwing acid in a pool where blacks were swimming in 1964; a white man jumping into a pool to remove black swimmers at a motor lodge in 1960s St. Augustine, Fl.
- After Brown vs. Board of Education, a federal judge upheld segregated pools in 1950s Baltimore because pools "were more sensitive than schools."
- Barred from pools historically, African-Americans were then subjected to the myth they were incapable of swimming.
- Former baseball player Al Campanis telling Ted Koppel in 1987 this: "Why are black people not good swimmers? Because they don't have the buoyancy." Click here to watch the video.
These are just the ones I found today. I'm sure there are others.
When I say Simone Manuel deserves her due. Deserves to be celebrated for this historic moment. Deserves to be recognized for a truly impressive feat. Deserves her (rightful) place in history. ALL of this is WHY.
Even now, I get emotional thinking about last night's swim. I'm filled with pride over the #blackgirlmagic being sprinkled like fairy dust all over Rio for the 2016 Summer Games (let's not forget the other incredibly talented, history-making Simone [Biles]!)
To paraphrase a line from one of TV mogul Shonda Rhimes' hit shows, "That's one of us down there. The FIRST one of us."
And while I know that interest in swimming among all young people will undoubtedly swell because of Simone, I'm especially excited to see how it will
inspire little black girls.
In fact, I've already seen countless posts and tweets today about how Swimone's (a nickname given to her by friends) performance is already doing just that.
The fact is – representation matters.
Shoot, Simone has me excited to get back in the pool and work on my freestyle!
I hope you understand where I'm coming from. If not, at least respect it.
Respect the history behind Simone's gold-medal earning swim.
One other thing: I sincerely look forward to the day we no longer have to talk about "firsts" among people of color. I don't know if it will happen in my lifetime or even in my future children's lifetime. But I hopeful that day will finally come someday.
But, until then, I will be brimming with pride and unapologetically enthusiastic over those "firsts."