A WNBA star has written a powerful essay to in which she details how she has been ‘angry and humiliated and belittled and unheard’ through her life — but she’s not letting it stop her from making herself heard.
A’ja Wilson, 23, is a forward for the Las Vegas Aces — but the road to success has been a difficult one, paved with both overt and covert racism.
In a new essay for The Players’ Tribune this week, the University of South Carolina alum got candid about her own experiences, telling Black girls that she sees them and recognizes that they ‘just want to be seen as human beings in this world.’
Speaking out: WNBA star A’ja Wilson, 23, wrote a powerful essay to Black girls about their shared experiences with racism
Pro: A forward for the Las Vegas Aces, she detailed how she has been ‘angry and humiliated and belittled and unheard’ through her life
A’ja grew up in Hopkins, South Carolina, where she says the Confederate flag was ‘around every corner’.
‘Keep on fighting, Black girls. I see you. I got you,’ she wrote
She attended a private school called Heathwood where she had a ‘crew’ of friends, mostly white, with whom she was ‘inseparable.’
She didn’t face racism in such an overt, ugly way until fourth grade, when she was gearing up to go to a friend’s birthday party. Ahead of the event, the friend pulled her aside to warn her that she might have to ‘stay outside’ during the party.’
‘It’s at my house. But my dad doesn’t really like Black people, so….’ the friend told her.
A’ja said it was ‘so sad’ and the first time she realized that some people don’t like her because she is a Black girl.
‘Every Black girl, at some point in her life, has her own version of The Birthday Party,’ she wrote. ‘I know what it’s like to feel like you’ve been swept under the rug. I know what it feels like to not be heard, not be seen, not be taken seriously.’
Home: A’ja grew up in Hopkins, South Carolina, where she says the Confederate flag was ‘around every corner’
Growing up: As a private school student in North Carolina, a classmate told her she’d have to stay outside at her birthday party because her dad didn’t like Black people
She didn’t just experience that attitude directed toward herself. She recalled a single Black teacher at her private school, who was often referred to as the ‘mean one,’ even by kids and parents who hadn’t met her.
Once she got to college, where she played under University of South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, she experienced even more racism toward Black girls.
Though she described Staley as the ‘ultimate boss’ who coached the team to an NCAA championship in 2017, people still complained about her leadership.
‘It seems like no matter how successful you are, or how strong, or how many lives you’ve changed, or how many banners you’ve got hanging…. If you’re a Black woman in this country, especially in the South? It’s always this vibe of, “I’m going to tell the real boss on you,” A’ja wrote.
With this wisdom, A’ja wanted to share a message to Black girls with their own similar experiences.
Racism: Years later, at the University of South Carolina, she watched her Black female coach face vitriol despite a winning season
Struggles: A’ja (pictured with Kobe and Gianna Bryant) said: ‘We’re a double minority. It’s like the world is constantly reminding us…. You’re a girl. Oh! And you’re a Black girl’
‘The truth is, we’re a double minority. It’s like the world is constantly reminding us…. You’re a girl. Oh! And you’re a Black girl. Alright, good luck!’ she said.
‘I hate it that we have to become a hashtag in order for society to be like, “Oh, we love our Black queens! Yaasss!” No,’ she went on.
‘No. It’s not good enough. We don’t want to be some meme or whatever. We don’t want to be the Angry Black Woman or the Aggressive Black Woman. We just want to be seen as human beings in this world. We just want to be heard when we speak. We just want to be respected.’
A’ja added that she doesn’t want to have to be unapologetic to be recognized.
‘I’ve been angry and humiliated and belittled and unheard. I’ve been really down and lost, at certain points in my life,’ she said. ‘But you know what? Didn’t stop me. I made myself heard.’
Listen up: A’ja added that she doesn’t want to have to be unapologetic to be recognized
The basketball star concluded her impassioned essay by telling Black girls that they don’t have to be famous to make an impact: Just existing and being a relatable face that other Black girls can see can do the trick.
‘Keep on fighting, Black girls. I see you. I got you,’ she wrote.
A’ja’s powerful essay has captured the attention of social media users, who called it ‘truly inspiring’ and ‘a beautiful well-written love letter.’
‘People see me as an athlete, a basketball player out there entertaining — at end of the day, I’m still a Black woman,’ A’ja Good Morning America. ‘I wanted to put it out there and let Black girls and women know, “I see you. I hear you. I am you”‘