23-year-old US Olympic champion, Manuel Simone Ashley, in an interview for Changing The Game podcast, spoke about the importance of all athletes using their platform to call out social injustice. She wants all athletes in all sporting disciplines to speak out against racial inequality. Simone believes the conversation about racism needs more than just one person talking.
Why is talking about racial inequality important?
“I don’t ever feel annoyed about answering questions because I do think that it is important to talk about it. I think what becomes exhausting is being the only one, where I feel like questions are generally geared to me to answer,” Simone said, “when I’m in a press conference. I’m asked ‘someone, you champion diversity, inclusion, and equality. Why is it important?’
“I genuinely believe that every other swimmer that is next to me, whether they’re white, black, Asian, they need to answer that question because, shouldn’t diversity, inclusion, and equality be important to all of us? Indeed it should be. Simone wants people to be educated on how to answer this question.
She is the first woman to have won seven medals at a single world championship. The gold medal she received in the 100- meter freestyle at the Rio Olympics was the first by a black woman. She is the first American woman to sweep the 50- and 100- meter freestyle titles in the world. Even with these achievements, she is a black woman in an overwhelmingly white-dominated sport, which makes her success stories historic and noteworthy.
Simone is not a fan of the ‘stick to sports’ mentality. She feels that athletes are not going to be athletes forever; one day, they will be regular people, and she is worried about how people see her or will see her if she becomes a regular person one day.
“It just seems like it’s more important than ever to be brave and tell your story. Yes, we are athletes, but at the end of the day, we are human. And I’m not going to swim forever, and when that day comes, how are you going to look at me? When I leave the pool, people look at me in specific ways, and I’m still affected by systematic racism or racism in general
“That’s where that ‘stick to sport’ mentality doesn’t make sense, and I think that more athletes are seeing that,” she added.
Simone understands that the way her parent and family raised her to be strong and unapologetic is the same thing the world needs to do. To empower other black people to be successful and proud of their race. ” We all need communities around us that are going to uplift us.” That’s precisely what the Black Lives Matter movement is doing.
Following the death of George Floyd, who was suffocated to death by a white police officer and Breonna Taylor, who was shot many times but officers were serving a narcotics search and ended up not finding any drugs in her apartment. People, celebrities and players have come together to protest against the killing of black people in the US
The movement gears towards equality, inclusion, and social justice. That way, black people out there can feel safe, walk around freely feeling empowered. That’s exactly what the world needs now.
Simone’s plans and training for this year did not materialize because of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, but she trusts that swimming will eventually come back, and she will reach her goals.
“I can’t control when I’m going to compete against, but what I can control is when I wake up in the morning, I’m going to do everything I possibly can to reach my goals still because someday, swimming is going to come back.”
She urges people the protests even after quarantine. The revolts, the need to stand against racial injustice shouldn’t stop when the pandemic is over. She trusts that the change and fight against racism will be generational, and people will need to put in a lot of work for hundreds of years to create a better world, a better future for the generation to come.
Racism indeed needs to be stopped, and people need a change of attitude; they need to accept everyone, no matter their skin complexion, because at the end of the day, we’re all human. Just like Simone suggests, the voice of athletes will make a change, and they need to speak out, use their popularity as a catalyst for change.