Black women are tired. @KeishaBottoms told y’all we tired. @naomiosaka told y’all we tired. Now, @Simone_Biles is telling y’all we tired. People want us to take on the world for their benefit while actively tearing us down. We’re magic but we ain’t superhuman. I’m tired, too.
— Tami Sawyer (@tamisawyer) July 27, 2021
Rest is not a trend but a birthright.
By Melissa Kimble
July 28, 2021
… Inspired by fellow super-athlete Naomi Osaka, who withdrew from the Grand Slam competitions leading up to the Olympics to protect her own mental health, Biles took a stance that shocked many and left others confused.
My impression now is that Simone Biles pulled out to protect her neck. She felt herself losing the cognitive ability to stay focused on where she was in the air while doing her dangerous routines. (This might have something to do with Ritalin being illegal in Japan. Or maybe not. It turns out Adderall is illegal in Japan, but you can get a Ritalin prescription for sleep problems, of all things.)
Gymnasts call this disorientation in space the “twisties.” It happened to Biles before in 2019.
I don’t know whether it correlates with age. It’s often compared to the yips in golf, in which pros in their 40s lose the ability to stay focused and smooth while putting, although that may be totally different for all I know.
As I’ve said, Biles would have been better off if the media’s narrative had emphasized that she’s trying to repeat as Olympic champion at a rather advanced age for a woman gymnast (e.g., Nadia Comaneci dominated at 14 but finished second in the all-around at 18, then retired; Mary Lou Retton won the all-around at 16 and retired two years later), and the postponement of the 2020 Olympics by a year has made the challenge even greater for her. So, if she’d pulled off this difficult feat, everybody would have been happy for her. But instead the press went with Greatest of All Time and Black Girl Magical Supremacy.)
But us pundits have to punditize, so everything serves our particular hobby horses. And a big one has become in recent years and especially during the pandemic about how black women are exhausted from microaggressions and all their emotional labor and thus need to nap more (e.g., Teen Vogue’s “Black Power Naps Is Addressing Systemic Racism in Sleep“).
Back to Glamour:
Biles’s stepping away didn’t just challenge the status quo—it obliterated it.
But for Black women, her decision resonated on a deeper level. Here we have a woman who made an intentional decision to choose her mental health over more medals, over glory, over the expectations the world had placed on her. “Black womanness sits at the intersection of society’s most marginalized identities,” says Duanecia Evans Clark, cofounder of of The Creative Summer Company. “To show up in today’s world as Black and woman requires that we are hypervigilant for ourselves and our families. After all of that vigilance, we have no choice but to demand rest of ourselves and the sisters around us.”
In a society that values productivity over humanity, and places superhuman expectations on Black women, Biles’s stepping away didn’t just challenge the status quo—it obliterated it.
Black women are programmed to believe that rest is not for us. “For hundreds of years we have carried the weight of the world on our shoulders,” says Alisha Robertson, an intentional business coach. “We’ve fought and advocated for those who wouldn’t normally do the same for us.”
So as Biles and Osaka have so bravely exemplified, for Black women, “rest is revolutionary. ”
“In 2021, rest is more revolutionary for Black women than it ever has been, and for no other reason than we finally have the choice,” says Evans Clark. “Our ancestors fought for this moment. We owe rest to ourselves, but we also owe it to them for the centuries they could not.”
During a time when workplace rules and boundaries are constantly shifting as many of us navigate new realities of remote work or lives as digital nomads, Simone and Naomi are also examples of how Black women are continuing to impact the way we all push back against toxic work environments and the systems that create them.
“I worked for a very big sports media company,” says Krissy Brierre-Davis, a business operations consultant. “As a Black woman in that company, I was expected to be on all of the time. It’s almost as if I was placed in certain positions to compete with my coworkers. While my white counterpart was praised for the bare minimum, I worked 24/7 and never received acknowledgement for a job well done. I was burned out.” Ultimately, she decided to leave to save herself, her family, and her sanity. “Unfortunately, many don’t have the ability to do that, but I knew that if I didn’t, I risked losing far more than I was willing to,” she says.
There is a growing movement for the radical prioritization of rest among Black women. Community healers like The Nap Ministry and Erika Totten remind us of the importance of rest. Armed with decades worth of experiences, resources, and tools that lead people to liberation, they teach Black women about the past, the present, and the power of rest. It’s not a trend but a birthright—a revolutionary stance in itself. “When you’re resting, it’s restoring your body so that you do have enough capacity to move on toward your vision,” says Totten via her #ToLiveUnchained sessions on Facebook Live. Or as Tricia Hersey, affectionately known as the Nap Bishop of The Nap Ministry, puts it: “There is never enough rest and leisure for those with a legacy of enslavement. Claim it.”
… The current cultural conversation around Black and women rest is also revolutionary because it ties into an even bigger discussion about what we need in order to strengthen our communities. While Black women are resting and being examples of liberation by prioritizing their well-being, they’re also ensuring the betterment of our world.
Melissa Kimble is a Memphis-based cultural writer and strategist, writing and building at the intersection of culture, community, and wellness.
That sounds exhausting.
An anonymous iSteve commenter points out this recent article in the extremely expensive Harvard Business Review, with his comments in italics:
Has Harvard Business Review been ScientificAmericaned already?
Maybe HBR has been TeenVogued?
Black employees are exhausted. Over the past year, their cognitive, emotional, and physical resources have been disproportionally depleted due to two deadly and intertwined pandemics: Covid-19 and structural racism.
Four bylines for this one: Three black professors and one black Ph.D. candidate.
Employees may need to “call in Black” instead of showing up to work when racially traumatic events occur.
Great idea, self-assigned last-minute paid holidays for black employees.
“Call in Black” is a hilariously racist phrase.
Anti-Black racism may inadvertently become internalized as imposter phenomenon — the internal experience of believing you are not capable or deserving of high achievement.
Commonly mistaken for situations in which the black employee in fact actually was hired into a job beyond his or her ability, a practice known as “affirmative action” or “diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
About 1 in 13 African-Americans have a natural tendency toward mild anemia (sickle-cell trait) because they have one copy of the recessive falciparum malaria-fighting sickle cell gene that causes the terrible burden of full sickle cell anemia if you are unlucky enough to inherit two copies. But my impression is that the typical black woman op-edsters who are industriously churning out all this much in demand punditry about how exhausted they are are actually go-getters. Most likely, they tend to be affirmative action beneficiaries who have been tossed in over their heads.