Speak Up. BLM. Vote.
with Jade & Jasmine Baker
19 Oct, 2020 · Track and Field
Jade & Jasmine Baker share their experiences growing up as young black women athletes as we dive deep into the topics of racism, privilege, microaggressions, the burden of representation, and the need to raise our voices and fight for change.
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Welcome to the Voice In Sport Podcast. I'm your host, Stef Strack, the founder of Voice In Sport. As an athlete, professional, and mom, I have spent the last 20 years advocating for women and innovating across the sports industry. Now, I want to bring more visibility to female athletes and elevate their voice. At Voice In Sport, we share untold stories from female athletes to inspire us all to keep playing and change more than just the game.
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Today we are going through a lot: as a community of female athletes with our sports, as a country with the pandemic, and as a global citizen as we bear witness to the horrific acts of racism and social injustice.
In our episode today, we are going to speak about advocacy. Advocacy starts with speaking up for yourself and it extends to speaking up for others. We are seeing momentum today with so many people raising their voice to support Black Lives Matter but we must do more than speak up. We must take action. Today, I am joined by guest Jade Baker and a special co-host Jasmine Baker - two black female athletes that grew up together as sisters playing sport. They share their experiences and wisdom as strong black women in predominantly white communities.
In today's episode, we will open with a letter from Jade and then dive deep into the topics of racism, privilege, microaggressions, the pressure and burden of representation, and what we as female athletes can do to fight for equality.
Let’s start with the powerful voice of Jade Baker and her open letter.
Dear non-black world I live in,
Black lives matter. Seems simple, uncontroversial, a fact of life, even, but people are realizing that even though they were so sure they believe this their entire lives, they did nothing to prove it, nothing to stand up for black lives when they had the chance.
Other people are realizing that they did not believe this their entire lives, and they are committed to changing themselves in challenging the environment that raised them. However, none of this is new to me. My parents have told me I mattered every single day of my childhood by telling me how beautiful I was, how talented I was, how smart I was, and how capable I was.
It was them that built the foundation that brought me to this point when the world kept telling me things to the contrary. I was six the first time somebody told me I was black. A little girl on the playground, who said she couldn't play with me because my skin was too brown.
I spent ages 11 through 18, wondering why so many people told me my skin was too dark for boys to like me. Wondering what they knew and I didn't. Wondering if my parents had lied to me all these years. All of the accolades I earned in my athletic career so often boil down to the sheer athleticism that naturally came with blackness.
I was forced to carry the burden of representation for an entire race in almost every room I sat in for my entire life. I thought just maybe if I was extraordinary enough, I would just get to be me, like all my white classmates just got to be them. That I wouldn't be the lone black girl, the token that the entire class looked at when my teacher mentioned slavery.
I would just be a girl, a classmate, a teammate, a friend.
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Through collegiate track and field, I saw that blackness is not the monolith my childhood tried to convince me of. I now know the vibrancy and joy of other people who look like me and are happy to look like me. I'm happy to look like me.
My blackness was never something to overcome. It was never something I could earn or prove. It was something I was born with. It was and is something to be proud of. I have mattered since the day I was born. No degree or medal or economic or social class makes any of us matter. Black lives matter simply because they do.
Welcome to the Voice In Sport podcast. Today I will be co-hosting with one of our VIS summer interns Jade Baker. She is currently studying broadcast journalism at UNC and I’m honored to share the mic with her today.
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Thank you, Stef. I really appreciate the opportunity to co-host, especially since we were talking about topics that are so near and dear to my heart. I'd love to introduce my sister, our guest, Jade Baker, to the podcast. Jade is the record hammer thrower at UVA and is currently studying law at Georgetown University to pursue sports and entertainment law, before eventually entering politics. She has overcome adversity both on and off the track and field. And today we're going to get real and talk about the challenges we face as black female athletes. Welcome to the Voice In Sport podcast Jade. We are excited to have you here today.
Thank you guys so much for having me. I'm so excited to be a part of this and to be a part of a company that's really centering on female voices. I think it's long overdue and I'm happy that you guys are doing it.
We agree. And we'd like to start with your amazing letter that you shared. We really do believe at VIS, that the power of storytelling is so important, and we now more than ever really need to stop, share, and listen. You referenced at the beginning that people are just now sort of waking up to the fact that they have done nothing to support Black Lives Matter, or racial injustices. Why do you think today people are starting to wake up and join the social justice movement?
So I think we've kind of reached the perfect storm in American history for a movement like this to happen. I think it's something that was easy to ignore in the past throughout the hustle and bustle of life, because people were able to believe it didn't pertain to them in particular. And then you have COVID-19, the global pandemic that has kind of locked us up inside for the past weeks. People are working from home. People are completely plugged into their social network. They're taking in an immense amount of content a day, and you've got George Floyd's tragic murder video that was released.
So, everybody saw it. You were no longer able to ignore it. You were no longer able to say this wasn't an issue. So, I think this was kind of the perfect storm for activism and as unfortunate as it is, and as much as I wish George Floyd was here with us today, I know that his family's proud that we're really making something important out of this.
I agree. What actions would you urge the people out there that are just realizing now that they need to do something more to take?
So, I think the first and foremost, most important thing you can do is educate yourselves. If you go on any Instagram thread, you can google any book that would educate you on the subject. It's even as simple as going on Netflix, where they've curated a collection for the Black Lives Matter movement. I personally recommend the documentary, 13th. I think it's really important to learn.
I think The Hate You Give is another good movie. And I also think When They See Us is a good docu-series, and those will all kind of root you in what's going on and kind of fire you up a bit. Though, they are a bit traumatic.
So, next in your letter, you talk about the importance of the eternal dialogue you had growing up, because our parents always told us that we were beautiful and talented and smart and capable. Can you tell us about that first time you realized that your race was a barrier for somebody else?
The interesting thing about being a person of color, being a black woman, not to speak for everybody, but for my particular experience, I have never been able to understand racism because I wasn't born into a position of racial privilege. I wasn't born into a position to where I was able to have a superiority complex. So, I think it's something I never really understood. Growing up, I realized that that mattered to some people. I couldn't understand why.
And I think that our parents did an amazing job, almost too good of a job, because it almost bubbled me a little bit of thinking how fair the world was. But I think that when I was six and the little girl told me that, I was so confused. I asked her why, again? She said, no. The next day, one of her other friends that I could play with them and I just kind of swept it under the rug. And that kind of started the pattern throughout my life of sweeping that on the rug, and just moving on with it.
It's so sad to hear. You're a young female and when you were six years old, it wasn't that long ago. And it saddens me to know that that experience continues to exist. I bet it shaped a lot of your mindset and your internal dialogue as you then headed into middle school and high school, and even potentially in your relationship with athletics. So, how do you think about the mindset, knowing that there's still girls in middle school and high school, facing these adversities?
As I heard things that represented racial injustice as I was growing up, I kind of adopted the mindset of this is the symptom of a bigger issue that has nothing to do with this person. And I think as a kid, especially just to talk a little bit about my background, we were well off.
We were an upper middle-class family. And at that point, we were surrounded by very few black children. I was the only black member of my graduating high school class. I was the only black member, probably countless classes that I sat in throughout my childhood. So, it was something that if I were to take to heart and I would have let it affect me as a person, every microaggression I heard or macro aggression that was going on in society, I wouldn't have had any friends. So, I just had to learn to separate what was being said to me and just realize that it had nothing to do with me. And I think that's once again, a testament to my parents too.
If nothing else, when kids would say something strange or off putting, it would just kind of bewilder me rather than offend me. I think it was something that I never knew how much I held onto until now. And now that we're being able to have a platform to talk about those microaggressions, and I think that's awesome, but I really would encourage girls in that position to speak up because looking back, I wish I had, because then I would have had a lot less stories to tell today.
So, when you went home to tell your mom and dad about some of the microaggressions you were facing, what did they tell you? And what can we pass on to those younger girls who might feel like they're not ready to talk about it when they get home?
So, I think the most important thing they can do is kind of going off of my last answer. And it is speak up, tell them because, out of any microaggression or racial slur or just really uncomfortable moment based on my race I heard, I probably told my parents one out of every 30, because, like I said, these were my friends. These were people who I knew loved me, and I knew they didn't mean to offend me.
So, I didn't want to tell my parents. I didn't want my parents to think I was being bullied. I didn't want my parents to not like my friends. I was embarrassed for my parents to know I wasn't standing up for myself when something made me uncomfortable. So, I think that girls today should be more empowered than ever to stand up for themselves when they feel uncomfortable.
The great thing is that you guys had each other too, as sisters. I'm curious to know if you leaned on each other during those moments.
We have a five-year age difference. So, in school that actually evens out to a lot because you have someone's in high school, elementary school, middle school. Jasmine and I have another sister that's a year and a half older than me, so we went through high school together.
We had a lot of the same experiences because we were going to the same schools. As a family that moves around over 10 times, Jasmine and I never went to the same high school. So, our experiences aren't exactly the same, but I think my sister who's a year above me and I kind of had the shared experience. Whenever something weird would happen in our friend group, we would kind of look at each other and, be like, Oh, that's a little off. So, I think it was good to know we always had one another. I went to high school in Texas and in Ohio, Jasmine went to high school in Mississippi. So, we're kind of all in different regions. And each region was definitely a different experience.
So, yeah, for me, I think it was a little bit different. Like you said, I never really told mom and dad, which looking back on it, I guess I should have, but I felt like I could handle it. I'm an incredibly competitive person, and so anytime someone said something to me that I didn't agree with, or a microaggression or a stereotype, I felt it was my responsibility to prove them wrong. So, they said that black people don't swim. I was going to be the best swimmer they ever saw.
If they thought that black girls were sassy, I was the sweetest girl you could ever meet. I kind of took that and internalized it and made it my mission to break these stereotypes. Because we were raised in private school, a lot of the people that we were with, we were the only black person they were friends with or honestly, they really even talked to.
So, I felt that if I broke these stereotypes, they would think that all black people were like me, and that's not fair to me. That's not fair to you. That's not fair to any other black person, because we shouldn't have to fight these stereotypes for each other. They should just not exist. You mentioned in your letter that you carried a burden as a black woman in every room you stepped in. And that really identified with me because for a very long time, I felt that my blackness was something that I had to overcome. I thought that if I was smart enough, or won enough awards, it would distract people and they wouldn't notice my dark skin.
I always felt the need to be more than who I was to almost make up for my blackness. And honestly, it kind of worked. Growing up, I never really got those jokes because people just wouldn't make them around me because I would instantly try to combat them. I would get very defensive, even if they were quote on quote jokes. So, I think the whole burden as a black woman thing is something that a lot of people do not realize because they don't have to live through it. And it looks different in every single one of us. But that burden is within every single one of us.
Yeah. And I think to kind of counter Jasmine's experience, I did get those jokes because I fit a lot of the stereotypes that, in my opinion, shouldn't exist because they're not necessarily negative things. Jasmine talks about how if a lot of black women are seen as being sassy, she was going to be extra sweet, which is true. Jasmine is literally the sweetest person you will ever meet.
I'm not. I'm kind and I'm nice, and I treat people the way they should be treated, but a sweet isn't a word that's used to describe me.
So while I do understand where Jasmine is coming from, we also want to be ourselves at the end of the day. And I think that I kind of received an exasperated version. I was always told I was freaking out when I had the smallest reaction cause I'm loud and I'm emotive.
And I care so much about everything that whenever I would have an opinion about something or I would be passionate about something, I was "angry black woman". That was kind of the trope I lived with and combated my entire life. And there's also the idea that black women are strong, which is true. We are strong.
But it's kind of the idea that because we're strong, we can be put through everything. We should be put through everything. We're resilient. We can take it. And so, I definitely dealt with that a lot growing up. A lot of responsibility was put on me, whether it was for teammates, for friends. A lot of other people's trauma was dumped on me because they knew that in their head, I didn't have a lot of my own, I wasn't feeling a lot of pain. I was never feeling anything. And so that's something that I kind of had to combat that was contrary to Jasmine.
So that just goes to show more how blackness, like I said in my letter, it isn't a monolith. We all experience it so differently. And even in the same house Jasmine and I have, every feature is the same, every economic advantage she had I also had. We were both athletes. We have so many similarities, but we still had such different experiences in black bodies.
So that just goes to show kind of what I was saying about the burden of representation. You struggle to represent an entire race that can't be represented because you are the only one people encounter. You still have to try your best and it's just not fair and it's not right. So I'm hoping to see that kind of done away with as we get older.
So, help us understand a little bit about how you feel in moments like these, where it really does feel like more people are getting involved from all sides, from all races, and from all socioeconomic classes. How do you feel in this moment?
I've had kind of a carousel of emotion. You go from seeing the original video that sparked this protest, which was George Floyd's tragic death, and that was grief. That was just grief. I felt it for Ahmaud Arbery, and I felt it for Breonna Taylor.
So I felt kind of grief. I felt a bit of invisibility, and then I kind of transitioned into anger. Anger that it's taken this long for people to see. Anger that this is still happening, that we're 400 years in and black bodies are still being weaponized and tortured to a degree.
And then I kind of got into where I currently am, and that's just a state of hope. This is different than I feel like anything that we have in American history. We have the civil rights movement of the sixties. And in that time you had allyship to a degree, but not nearly what we're seeing today.
I live in Washington, D.C. It's where I go to law school. I went to the protest, in front of the White House and Black Lives Matter Plaza, and I saw as many, if not more white people and non-black people than I did black people there. And it was so encouraging, and it was just this celebration of humanity amongst all this grief.
And I've had friends that I'd never even have thought twice about any of the comments made to me or that have been made around them, reach out and tell me that they care and they're trying, and they want to do better. So, I just think right now I feel this overwhelming hope and I also feel this feeling of not wanting to let this all go. I want us to keep pressing until we get real change. I just don't want street size to be enough. I want laws and reformation. So just kind of a cycle going on.
We want the same. We're building VIS because we believe sport's this powerful tool to drive advocacy, and female athletes in particular, are very strong.
But the facts are just still really discouraging. Urban girls of color, they drop out of sport at a much faster rate, so I am curious to know with your success and continuing on to one of the best Division 1 schools for track and field, and still holding a record- how have you succeeded and what kept you going in sport all those years?
Well, there's a couple things that factor into it. And I think one is my parents. The reason I've gotten anywhere I am is because I had the best parents in the world.
So, I was lucky, but I did start off, like I said, in that economic privilege that allowed me to continue sports, which is part of the reason so many young people of color in urban environments have to drop out of sport. So, first and foremost, we have to fund those programs better. But what personally kept me going is, I was probably five when I started running track. I was three when I started playing soccer, soccer was the first love of my life. I played it up to the very last second before going to college and something my parents, my dad in particular always told me when he was taking this little child out to the track to run miles.
He always told me that hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard. And that terrified me. I never wanted to lose because I wasn't working hard because I knew I was talented. I knew I was out there, and I was blessed, and so I never wanted to be the reason that I got beat. And so I just kept working as hard as I could.
And I always knew, whether it was from them or my coaches or just from the actual results, I always knew that if I did my best, I would make it, I would make it to a D1 program. I didn't know which one, but there was never a moment since I started athletics where I even not for a second, it's where I wouldn't end up.
So I think what helps me succeed and keep me in spirit was just the immense support system I had that instilled great confidence in me. I encourage everybody, if there is a young girl in your life, whether it's a niece or somebody you babysit, or even your sister or your friend's sister, just encourage them and tell them how great they can be, because I was always constantly positively reinforced that I would make it. So I never for a second thought I wouldn't.
You also mentioned you became more proud in your identity as a black woman when you got to college. As someone that hasn't gotten to college yet, I'm curious to know what shifted in that mindset. What happened to where you found this new confidence?
So honestly, what shifted was being around more black people. That was what shifted the most. I didn't have any black female track teammates on my team in high school. So, I got to UVA, I was on the sprint squad, and I think we were all black. That was something where I saw these women who are now my best friends, old roommates, lifelong friends who were so, so proud of their blackness. it wasn't even a second thought to them. Blackness was just a part of their core identity. It was who they were. They lived it out, they lived it out vibrantly. They lived it out loudly. They didn't care about what people thought. And that was something I had never in my life experienced.
And then when I bought into it and I became a part of it and I kind of let that guard down, when I finally let that burden go of representing anybody other than myself and my family, and I became so proud and I loved the environment and I think that being an athlete helped with that shift a lot, because it immediately put me in a position where I was in a predominantly white university, but surrounded by predominantly black people. We kind of feel a freedom. You find people who are like you, people who grew up in similar situations and you kind of just shift together and meld together.
I actually remember the first time I saw your new track friends at UVA. It was a really cool thing for me as well. Growing up being the only black person and being incredibly muscular and toned and dark skinned, my features were never said to be beautiful. But seeing your friends and how incredibly built and beautiful they are was something that was special for me because I looked at these girls, and I was like, wow, they are beautiful, even though they have an eight pack, even though you can see the definition in their arms. That was a first for me. So I think that was also a really cool experience just to have that kind of identity and seeing others maybe go through the same thing you're going through.
When you look back at your entire athletic journey from a young girl to being a Division 1 athlete for four years, how do you think your experiences differed from your white teammates?
Like I said, I was really active in soccer. I did club. I did school. I was a million hours a day into soccer and, in America, that's a predominantly white sport for females. And so something I experienced is I was always the beast and the freak of nature and the athlete.
I wasn't the skill player, I wasn't the hard worker, and I wasn't the one with the high athletic IQ. Those were never the compliments I received despite, in my humble opinion, having all three of those. I know I'm a hard worker. I know I'm a smart player on the field.
My entire athletic career, I was faced with all of my white teammates always getting these compliments for the things that they did other than the moment they were born. All of my compliments, I don't think they were set in malice and don't think any of my friends' parents or my coaches or anybody meant to insult me because I know they were compliments, but they were all based on things that were determined the moment I was born, and they were all rooted in the idea that black people are more athletic than white people and that’s just the end of it. I often had to train with the boys in high school and I know that they would always say it doesn't count that I'm beating them because I'm black. It doesn't count that you can jump high because you're black. So that was definitely something I experienced that was different.
I think though, as I got to college, the experience really tapered out evenly. I think that we dealt with other things in the university at large different than our white teammates. But I think on the team, being in track and field, which is probably one of the most diverse sports you can get, because there are so many events, we have so many international team members there, there are just so many people coming from so many different walks of life. I think that my team in particular did a really, really good job of putting us all on an equal playing field.
So, what do you tell the girls that are showing up to teams where they are one of the only, or few black women today?
I think I just tell them to be confident in themselves, be confident in their training and their work and speak up for yourself. You know who you are, you know what your skills are, you know what you bring to the table, you work hard and you stand up for yourself.
I think if we're more willing to call out things that don't sit right with us, and maybe we don't even know why it doesn't sit right with us. But the amount of times that something, I didn't know at the time it was a microaggression, or I didn't know that it was overtly racist, and it just didn't strike me right. And I just moved on with it. The amount of times that I probably could have changed a person's perspective just by calling that out on the moment, and we would have moved on because sports is such a community. I think that would have changed everything. So really just knowing what you're about and knowing that you could stand on your own two feet and speak up for yourself.
Once we talk about it, and once we normalize being a good athlete while black and not being a good athlete because you're black, that will definitely help a lot moving forward.
Yeah, and those pressures that you put on yourself and that society puts on you will add up over time and it's not healthy. And so, it is so important to speak up and to drive that change and to have that conversation. I am a white female athlete, and I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, so there was not a lot of black women on my teams, and I would love to hear from you guys, what would you ask your non-black teammates to say and support you if you were to go back in time and think about yourself when you were in middle school and high school? On those teams with mostly white women, what can they do to support you? Tangibly, what are things that these allies can do?
I think the main thing is calling out other non-black people when the black person is not around. It would have been helpful to do in front of me, because then I would've seen that somebody was defending me, but I think that in that situation, people tend to feel attacked. They're less likely to apologize. They are going to go on the defensive. Just to give an example. I was called the Nigerian nightmare by another soccer team. I'm not Nigerian, but that's besides the point.
If you were to be on that other team, and you hear somebody saying that, and you heard whoever made up the nickname, it's in moments like those where I would have hoped that somebody would have been like, why? That makes no sense. Do we even know if this girl's Nigerian? Are we being racist? Which you were. So kind of just the idea of calling each other out and not only in the presence of a black person, but also, when we're not there, because the idea that we've seen throughout film and the American ideals, we tend to have a white savior complex, and so oftentimes there tends to be the white person who swoops in and saves the black person from oppression or racism or danger, but be that person when we're not around, when you're not going to have the applause, when you're not going to be anybody's savior. And that's how you can have real change to call each other out in your environments.
Call your parents out, challenge them, ask them why they said it, why they instilled it in you? Same with your grandparents. It's really never too late, that's what I found from a lot of these conversations I'm having. So, don't be afraid to have the tough conversations when Black Lives Matter isn't trending, when we're not in the room, when this is all said and done, keep having the conversations.
And know that, even if they aren't negative things, even if you aren't saying negative things about this black female athlete, if you are saying something based on her blackness, that should not be said, it's not fair to her.
I remember I was in gymnastics in fourth grade, and I learned this skill and I landed it for the first time, and I could not be more happy. And I hear one of my teammates say to her mom, I wish I was black so I could do that.
And in that moment, my fourth-grade self just kind of froze and wanting to hear what the mom had to say. And she said, Oh, if you work hard, you can do what she's doing. And at the time I thought that was okay, but those kind of phrases and those kinds of sayings need to be shut down in the moment. We need the parents, we need the coaches, we need the adults that are hearing these microaggressions, that are hearing these underlying thoughts to shut them down. So I think the best thing that my white teammates and their moms and their dads and my white coaches and my white teachers that can hear what's going on, to just stop people in their tracks once they say it. Don't think to yourself, that's not okay. Don't tell somebody later what happened. Stop them and help them and let them know that what they say is not okay, because that is the only way that they're going to know.
Well, I think that what you guys are both saying is so powerful because every single person has a role in this movement. Everybody can stand up for people who do not look like themselves, and it is so important. So I appreciate that you both bring that up because I do think that some people are finding it hard to know how to help, especially the ones that are just waking up to the conversation.
So, I want to talk a little bit about your future, because you're studying law. I would love to know in your perspective, what would you like to see change in sports, regarding race and gender?
So first off, starting with gender, I would like to see equal pay where equal pay has been earned. One of the things I'm most passionate about, things I'm most disheartened by, in professional sports today is the U.S. Women's National Team and that pay gap, with the men's national team.
I think it's completely absurd. I would like to see that change as soon as possible. I just like to see support for female sports more. I want us to be relevant more often than every four years when the Olympics comes up. I want people to care about female sports more.
I want us to be advertised. I want the work to be put in because, it's what you put in front of people's eyes that they don't have the choice not to watch it. They're gonna watch it. And they're going to get invested because that's the nature of humans. We care. We get invested in things we're competitive. We like sports. It's why the U.S. Women's National Team gets so much viewership when they're on TV and it gets amazing ticket sales when they're playing.
I think in terms of race, the thing I would like to see most in which I've been really heartened by in this current movement is white athletes using their platform to speak up for black athletes, because it's a scary place for black athletes.
You could lose your career over it. People say, Oh, that's dramatic- people shouldn't be afraid. It's a free country. Colin Kaepernick lost his career for taking a knee and we don't know if he's ever going to get it back, and we don't know if he wants it back. We don't know if he feels like he's past that point of his life. So I think if we keep having the confidence to speak up for one another.
NASCAR literally pulled the upset of the century. That was awesome. I'm really happy with the direction we're going in race. I really do think time is up. I think the commodification of black athletes has to stop if we're not going to be met with the same love off field that we are on the field.
I think that is heading in the right direction. And I think we have a long way to go with gender. And I think that's a huge issue that people need to stop chalking up to just boys are better, boys are more entertaining, because that's a fallacy, and you're just used to seeing boys and they're presented in a more entertaining way.
I think it's really important for these white people in power, and whether that be celebrities, athletes, people that the public listen to, to speak up. That is something that is going to drive the most change.
But in terms of a black girl on a soccer team in seventh grade or an 11th grade black volleyball player- How do you think they should use their voice to express their concerns when facing adversity with their team or a coach? Because I know that's a tricky situation because, like you mentioned earlier, black girls don't want to speak up because once we do, we are classified as the "angry black woman" or people don't always take us seriously. So since Voice In Sport is all about elevating the voice of female athletes to drive change, how do you think young female athletes can do that?
That's a really good question. I think it's a really tricky question, but there's never been a better time in sports to use your platform. When we think of the word platform, we think of these athletes who have the millions of followers who earn millions of dollars, but every single person has a platform and that's your power. Your voice is your power. That along with your performance, that's all your power.
There's a time in history right now that's so, so right for you to leverage that and fix the injustices within your own team, by calling it out every time you see it.
And I don't think we should be afraid, which, something I was honestly plagued with fear. I was afraid I was going to lose my friends. I was afraid everybody was going to think I was too sensitive where they had to walk around eggshells around me.
And I don't think you should fear that because I think people should want to fix their speech. If people feel like, Oh, we can't say racist things around her. That's a good thing. They shouldn't be saying racist things around you, because if you're truly their friend and you're a part of their everyday life, that's not just going to limit the things they say around you.
That's going to limit the things they say around everyone. So I think kind of what Jasmine was saying. Right there. Right then. Call it out. I think that's your power.
So, what do you think the power of all of these coaches have right now? A lot of female athletes in high school and in college are still having weekly meetings right now with their coaches
What advice would you give the coaches out there to use this opportunity to help change the conversation, and change the dialogue of some of the things that are happening on their teams?
I think coaches are in one of the best positions they could possibly be in. They have so much power.
And I think during these one on one conversations, one of the most valuable things that they could do, one of the most valuable things they could have done for me back then is just ask, Hey, where have I gone wrong in this subject? Has there ever been a time where I made you feel uncomfortable? Have I created a team atmosphere that made you feel uncomfortable or not right? And I think if you're really willing and open to do that, it's just going to come out the floodgates. The advice that you can give and the open dialogue and your athlete's going to respect you so much more.
I think if we're willing to have that conversation, if I was willing to say, Hey, coach, I actually don't like it when you call me a freak of nature or I don't like it when you put all of the team’s responsibilities or shortcomings on me.
So I think if you were just willing to have those conversations as coaches and you’re just willing to go one on one and then you're willing to bring it to the team and you're willing to say, hey, we don't have a welcoming atmosphere or though we know everybody here loves one another, we don't treat everybody the same. So how can we move forward?
And I think those conversations would spark a lot and making somebody feel, especially if you are the lone black person on the volleyball team, lacrosse team, soccer team, field hockey team, these countless predominantly white sports- making the athlete feel like you're on their side and then abolishing sides. That could really go along way.
So for the young girls on the teams where their coaches haven't said anything to them, haven't reached out, haven't made any effort and will probably not make any effort, what should they do to make sure that their voice is being heard, and it makes sure change is happening?
I think you should reach out to your coach. I was in college. I had a pretty outspoken, pretty intimidating head coach.
He wasn't doing anything racially unjust, but I wouldn't have felt comfortable, if he was, reaching out to him in particular. But I know that there's a million different ways that you can get to your coach. Most teams have four to five assistant coaches. I was super comfortable with at least three of them. I would have felt comfortable reaching out to them and talking to them. And I think you just have to just know you're not powerless, especially in a time like right now, you are not powerless to reach out to your assistant coach. Talk to your teammates. Get a coalition together. If you guys can reach that this is a common understanding and then bring it to the coaches or administration or anything, you're going to have more effective change that way.
I think this is a perfect time to stop living in your discomfort and fix it. Whether it's a gender bias, whether it's a racial bias, whether you just feel you're being unfairly targeted on a team, just don't live in your discomfort and I think this is a perfect time to overcome that.
Reach out and just ask for the change because I've learned that closed mouths don't get fed. As unfair as it is that you shouldn't have to ask for equality, it is something that we're at a point we have to demand equality and you have to be willing to go forward and stand up for yourself.
And it's important to know that young athletes that are feeling uncomfortable, you bringing it up does not make you soft or sensitive or weak. It makes you strong. And I know that's something that I really struggled with.
I would always brush it off because I didn't want to come across as sensitive, or I didn't want to come across as someone that can't take a joke. I think it's important to remember that if it is making you uncomfortable, you can bring it up if you want to change anything. You speaking out, it makes you incredibly strong and your coach should understand that and respect you for it.
I agree. And thank you both for just sharing so many personal stories and experiences from every moment of your life. And I know that a lot of women and girls listening to this podcast will certainly be better for it.
So you've given a lot of advice to younger athletes. Who was a black female athlete growing up that you admired?
So, my biggest inspiration growing up was by far Serena Williams. I love Serena Williams. But her experience can be placed perfectly in today's times, because she was targeted as a woman who presented masculine in people's minds, as a woman who was strong, as a woman who was dark skin, as a woman who wore big hair on the court. And more than anything, a woman who had emotion. She showed emotion. She showed passion. She showed this undeniable will to win every single time. But that's how I modeled my entire athletic career after. She was constantly faced with racism, sexism, and she just washed it off of her back and she kept going and she kept winning and she was so powerful.
Now is the time, if any time, to celebrate her, because she did all those things before it was cool. She did all those things before we had a movement. As a dark skinned woman, it's especially hard growing up. It's especially hard when you're constantly being painted as masculine or unattractive.
And she was somebody who just was so beautiful and she wore her sport so beautifully and she wore her metals and she wore her losses gracefully and she wore her wins gracefully. And I never thought when she was emotional, even as recently as a U.S. Open where she was painted as an "angry black woman," I've never seen that in her.
I've just always seen somebody who looks like me, who was willing to do whatever it took to win. And she was always a good sport about it. I think if you don't have emotion and you're not passionate, then you don't care. And I think that's something that black women in sports in particular aren't allowed to have.
And Serena said, screw it. I'm going to have it anyway. And so that's why I love her so much. I want more than anything for her to come back and win the 2021 Olympics, and then retire and live her whole happy life. But that's just my pipe dream, so Serena Williams definitely.
She is an inspiration and one of the most powerful women in the world. And I love what she does off the court just as much as what she does on the court.
Since we're here to really serve the female athlete, I'd like to end the podcast- which is one piece of advice you would give to the black female athletes out there today, and one piece of advice you would give to the non-black female athletes?
So one piece of advice I would give to the black female athletes, and this is gonna sound cliche, because it's of course, what you hear your whole life growing up, but if you do your best, it will be enough. That's what got me through it. That's what got me to this point because my freshman and sophomore year of college athletically were catastrophic. They were absolutely the worst seasons an athlete can have. But I just kept doing my best. I kept digging in and I knew that if I did my best, it would be good enough.
Even if it wasn't winning the national championship, which I didn't end up doing. You talked about breaking the school record. I did do that. I want to put that out there, but I did my best and my best ended up being good enough. And I look back on college athletics and I look back on my athletic career as a whole, and I know that I gave it everything I had and that made me proud and it still makes me proud.
So my advice to black athletes, which doesn't even necessarily have to do with your blackness, but make yourself proud. Shifting gears, my advice to white athletes would still be the same in terms of making yourself proud, but I think more gearing it towards what we can do to reach a more harmonious society in athletics.
I think that's holding yourself accountable. I think that’s, looking back, what you have done to create an environment that was comfortable for you and not comfortable for others, tat was not all inclusive. How have you spent the privilege that you've never earned? Have you done things to defend black lives when you had the chance?
And I think now's a good time as any in athletics to reach out to your team, ask your team to meet, ask your team to talk about everybody's emotions, eerybody's feelings, what they feel their part in this movement is. And I just think if you're willing to get uncomfortable and have the uncomfortable conversations, we're not going to be having this conversation in 2040.
Because we'll be there. We'll be where we want to be. So I think if you're just willing to put in the work, we're going to get there. I'm really hopeful that we're going to get there.
And to the young black female non-athletes, I think it's so important to know that your worth doesn't come from you being the best in class. Your worth doesn't come from you being the best in these clubs.
You are not any less worthy cause you don't play sports. None of that has anything to do with your worth. I think it's so important for young black girls specifically to know that their black is beautiful and their black is enough. It is enough to do what makes you happy. It's enough to try your best.
And it's enough to find these passions. You don't always have to feel like you have to be the best. You don't always have to feel like you are carrying an entire race on your shoulders. I think it's so important just to know that we don't have to fight these battles. We can be happy. We can find things that make us happy, without feeling guilty or without feeling like we're not doing enough.
Just to echo what Jasmine's saying, cause she brought up a really important point in my mind that I meant to mention when giving my advice to athletes, I know she was giving it to non-athletes, but black athletes do not tie your worth up in athletics.
It's so easy when you're an athlete, especially when you are the star athlete, when you're the star athlete on the field or in your head, it's so easy for that to become your number one identity, and it is going to end one day. It's all going to end one day.
I faced the mortality of my athletic career within the past 12 months. So I'll tell you it is going to end one day. And that existential crisis, I always saw it coming. It never came. And that's because I eventually learned that being an athlete is an extremely important part of identity. I am an athlete. I will always be an athlete, but it's not the only part of my identity.
So learn to invest in yourself other than the only thing that people think is important about you, because it's not. Chances are you're smart. Chances are you love music. You have all these hobbies outside of athletics that you get to enjoy. So let yourself enjoy them.
Thank you both so much. It was so inspiring to talk with you both today. And I'm very honored to have Jasmine co host this with me.
Thank you so much for having me. And like I said, thank you for giving this platform its existence, because I think it's really important. And Jasmine, you did great little sis.
Well, thank you. Thank you for being on the podcast. It was really cool to see how our stories were so similar yet, so different. And I think that will help a lot of people that fall in between. Thank you, Stef, for having us and thank you for Voice In Sport for giving us this platform and for giving an opportunity for young girls to speak up and find their voices and to make sure they're heard.
There are so many important lessons we can all take from Jade and Jasmine. Through our conversation, I felt grief, anger, and hope as they shared their stories of struggle and triumph and their journey as black female athletes in predominantly white communities. I hope we all recognize the power of our voices. Jade reminds us that “our voice is our power” and that we must speak up. We must continue to have the uncomfortable conversations and we must continue to confront societal inequalities in order to change more than just the game.
As female athletes, we must support one another. We must fight for each other and we must fight for what is right. As female athletes, we must be strong, we have to speak up, and we definitely need to use our voices. Thank you so much Jasmine and Jade for sharing your story. We hear you, we see you, and we will fight alongside you.
We have partnered with Rock the Vote with a goal to inspire the highest student athlete voter turnout in an election ever. You can access our registration tools at voiceinsport.com under our hashtag #moreVOTESmoreVOICES. Please follow us on our social channels @voiceinsport and if you are interested in advocating for equality please join our community of female athletes at voiceinsport.com and donate to voiceinsportfoundation.org. Thanks for tuning into this episode and we will see you next time.
Host: Stef Strack
Producer: VIS Creators™ Liz Boyer & Anya Miller
Jade & Jasmine Baker share their experiences growing up as young black women athletes as we dive deep into the topics of racism, privilege, microaggressions, the burden of representation, and the need to raise our voices and fight for change.