Opinion | Simone Biles and the New Black Power of 'No'

All this can be attributed to the growing fatigue with representation. Black people have always found it difficult to carry the flag of America and all its ideals. It can also be quite traumatizing these days. This trauma was clearly evident when Harry Dunn, a Black officer in police, and Aquilino Gnell testified to the House committee that is investigating the January 6th insurrection. They described what they saw on that fateful day at the Capitol. The officers' detailed and honest descriptions of being attacked, set upon, and repeatedly called the "n-word" by a rabid mob of mostly white men were harrowing. It was heartbreaking to see them writhe in pain and despair at the painful memories. Their vulnerability was natural and perhaps overdue. Cops aren't star athletes. They are authority figures who are charged with upholding American ideals. In this case, that means holding the line for democracy, a Herculean task which goes beyond what an Olympian can do.At times, the officers seemed to be at their wits' end, something Black people should avoid at all cost. Black Americans are not supposed to admit to distress to anyone, but it is something that comes with being Black in America. This is why it has been an integral part of the racial struggle to not display or succumb to these feelings. While we now think of athletes as billionaire celebrities but they have been involved in this struggle for years. Jackie Robinson broke the Major League Baseball color line, but it wasn't without enduring intense, sometimes violent harassment by white fans and other players. Although he didn't complain about it, it was part his job. However, suppressing all emotion probably contributed to his early death at 53. Biles was long before Muhammad Ali, who declared himself to be the greatest person of all time. This un-stoic attitude made Ali a hero among Blacks. Whites were suspicious of Ali, who was a convert Muslim and also opposed the war on Vietnam. Ali's goal in the Black Power era was to be a champion of Americas flag. A former Olympian, Ali later refused to carry Americas banner literally or otherwise. Although his self-definition was bold, it also came with a cost: He could not show vulnerability or hesitate as the greatest. He was a Black Superman, and he had to live up.Ali expected the world's weight to rest on his shoulders, just like Jackie Robinson. Biles may have expected the exact same thing, considering all the attention she received in Tokyo. But, Biles is breaking new ground by admitting that weight can be too much and that it's okay to let it go for a while. Or longer. Biles described the self-doubt that caused her to leave the team competition. She later pulled out of the individual all around competition. Biles also stressed the importance of proving her worth and putting self-preservation before performance. I didn't want to do stupid things and get hurt. She said it was not worth it. They weren't just athletes; they were also people.This message was lost on her conservative critics, chiefly the white men Charlie Kirk and Piers Morison. Kirk called Biles a national embarrassment while Morgan claimed she let down her country. (He later apologized. Although there is room for discussion regarding Biles' decision, comments such as these are rooted in racist assumptions that Black people are not capable of representing America.There is a silver lining to the overt racism that has infected a large portion of the country. It has inspired new and sustained activism from Black athletes. Colin Kaepernick, an NFL quarterback, took a knee during the national song in memory of Black victims of police shootings in 2016. He received a lot of heat for this action which in turn encouraged other elite athletes from other sports to voice their concerns and take action. Biles is part this new tradition. Her thoughtful, but unwavering no is the result a new type of soul-searching which, more often than looking out at the world for direction, looks inward. The problem is not about Black people integrating into the nation, but rather about the country integrating into Black people.While right-wing pundits may rant about Biles' fitness to represent, the accusation has lost any moral weight. Biles refuses to take the shameful treatment that has been heaped on Black people regardless of whether they win. It's time.