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Column: Angel Reese isn't the problem — your prejudice is just showing

Angel Reese (10) of the LSU Lady Tigers reacts toward Caitlin Clark (22) of the Iowa Hawkeyes during the fourth quarter of the 2023 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament championship game at American Airlines Center on Sunday, April 2, 2023, in Dallas. Photo Courtesy of Maddie Meyer/Getty Images/TNS.

After a record-breaking season, the Louisiana State University Tigers were hailed as the winners of the 2023 NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship. In the final game against the Iowa Hawkeyes, LSU won its first national title — beating Iowa 102 points to 85. 

At the top of your news feeds should be highlights of the game, the most valuable players and celebratory remarks. Instead, most of the joy behind LSU’s historic win is being overshadowed by Twitter dragging LSU forward Angel Reese. 

Voted the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four Tournament for her domination on the court, Reese is being called out for “cockiness” and “poor sportsmanship” near the end of the championship game. Reese was seen waving her hand in her face and pointing to her ring finger — symbolizing that LSU would be winning the championship ring. Reese looked directly at Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, who used the John Cena-like taunt and others throughout the season. 

In an ESPN video interviewing some of the Iowa players, Clark is praised as the “queen of comebacks” and her taunts are taken as lighthearted ways to keep her team fired up. 

“I loved that she did the John Cena thing,"  Iowa guard McKenna Warnock said,  "I think it was so cool.” 

She referenced the March Madness Elite Eight game against Louisville, in which Clark waved her hand in her face, implying that she can’t be stopped — a taunt reminiscent of Cena’s famous “You can’t see me” move. 

Another teammate, Iowa forward Hannah Stuelke, said “I love when she just hypes up the crowd and then everyone just goes wild, it’s awesome every time.” 

If these provokes weren’t seen as “classless” when Clark did it, why switch up now?

Reese’s actions were not “classless,” as Twitter users complained. In fact, her scrutinized actions do not boil down to a simple debate between good and bad sportsmanship. The problem is that a Black woman dared to taunt a white woman right back.

Black people are still expected to carry themselves with meekness — rarely flaunting their accomplishments or acknowledging their greatness. We are expected to take the high road, forgive our killers and show no rage in the face of discrimination. 

Reese had every right to clap back at Clark, who has been doing so to other teams throughout the season. However, in the same double standard that saves white boys from crimes under the guise of “boys will be boys,” and saves white girls from accountability if tears are shed and tantrums are thrown, only one player’s actions will be deemed acceptable. 

Reese’s experience is an important testament to how racism and respectability politics infiltrate every system in America — from sports to politics, and even down to everyday life.

Michelle Obama wore her hair straightened as the first lady of the United States to avoid even more scrutiny from the public. On night one of her “The Light We Carry Tour” in Washington, D.C.,  the former first lady told her audience that the U.S. “wasn’t ready” for her natural hair and that being the first Black family in the White House meant “(they) had to ease up on the people.” 

Everything the Obamas did, from their actions to their clothing and hairstyle choices, was closely monitored and critiqued. How Michelle Obama wore her hair should have been the last thing on Americans’ minds in the realm of politics, but as a Black woman in the spotlight, it did matter. 

In Black households, children are taught from an early age how to present themselves and code-switch to better their chances at success — and to simply survive. Black youth are wrongly profiled and viewed as threats for simply wearing hoodies, grocery shopping, walking in their own neighborhoods and just existing. 

Black youth are jailed for the same petty crimes white youth can get away with and are deemed adults before they even hit eighteen. At a traffic stop, we must do whatever the officer asks of us, keep our hands where they can see them and remain calm. 

We are not awarded the same luxury to unapologetically be ourselves outside of the spaces we create, without the possibility of facing consequences. No matter what we do, we’ll be condemned for it because we are Black. However, we must continue pushing the envelope and being ourselves regardless of what others may say. 

As best put by Reese herself, “When other people do it, y’all say nothing. So, this was for the girls that look like me, that’s going to speak up on what they believe in.” 


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