For those who have watched the hit Netflix show Ginny & Georgia, there's a scene that will likely feel familiar if you're a mixed race gal like myself. In the scene, the protagonist Ginny is asked the question: "What are you? You look so exotic!" I can't tell you how many times I've encountered this very same question in my life; even though I knew the person asking meant no harm, it was hard not to feel awkward about my own identity when asked in this way.
For years, I never really spoke about my ethnicity because I didn't want the color of my skin to create a barrier between myself and the people around me. Mixed race and Black women everywhere know exactly what I'm talking about — whether it's receiving "Black girl" assignments at work or feeling under-appreciated at the office in general, it gets exhausting.
But here's the thing: Our identities and accomplishments should not be swept under the rug by ourselves, or others. In fact, our identities are something that makes us us.
This celebration of identity is on full display in Nike's latest "We Play Real" initiative, which shines a spotlight on Black women (especially Black female athletes) and their ability to get the job done — because we're not just magic, we're the real deal. This isn't to say that Black Girl Magic shouldn't be marveled at (it 100% should), but rather, this initiative aims to ground it into our hearts and minds that this magic is a direct result of the Black athletes, students, and workers everywhere who are grinding on the daily to make it a reality.
Even beyond the confines of what Black women are achieving on the track, the court, or in the gym, "We Play Real" speaks to a larger conversation of leveling the playing field for Black women in all aspects of our culture. Take, for example, Nike's partnership with Black Girl Ventures, an organization that provides Black and brown, woman-identifying founders with access to the resources they need to build their own business. As part of their partnership, Nike is investing $500,000 that'll be used to expand the reach of the organization, improve their crowdfunding platform, and elevate the brand’s platform with thoughtfully curated Black stories. They’ve partnered to create the Black Girl Ventures x Nike Pitch Competition, which features eight Black and brown women entrepreneurs across the health, sports, and wellness industries to compete in the first-ever, tournament-style pitch. Stay tuned — the first episode will go live on Thursday, April 29.
Continuing important cultural conversations in a positive way is an ongoing process. Although the events of 2020 sparked a surge in awareness to the systemic issues and injustices uniquely impacting the Black community that we as a society still have to address, we still have to commit to making this change a more permanent part of our societal architecture. Sometimes, it may feel like 10 steps forward and five steps back. But, the more we listen and allow Black voices to lead the way, the more we remember that Black women especially are not just extraordinary beings, they're 100% the real damn thing.