Sha’Carri Richardson proves she’s a role model who knows what to do — leave the disapppoinment and the haters in the dust

OPINION: After missing the Tokyo Olympics over marijuana use and a poor performance at last year's U.S. Track and Field Championships, Richardson responded to the setbacks by showing the world she's a champion.

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

Role models come in all sizes and colors. 

Some of them exemplify admirable traits that are worthy of emulation, such as kindness and respectfulness, commitment and perseverance. We point them out and hope children head in that direction.

Sha’Carri Richardson of Team United States looks on in the Women’s 200m Heats during day five of the World Athletics Championships Budapest 2023 at National Athletics Centre on August 23, 2023 in Budapest, Hungary. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Others display regrettable characteristics that are opposite our desires, like being mean and inconsiderate, careless and shiftless. We show them to the children, too, as models to NOT follow.

Sha’Carri Richardson could’ve gone the other way, succumbing to despair and disappointment after her rising star was shot down and stomped. 

Between missing the Tokyo Olympics two years ago for smoking weed and failing miserably last year at the U.S. Track and Field Championships, she was teetering on the edge with no guarantees. “Whatever the case,” I wrote back then, “she’ll have to figure it out like other 22-year-old Black women. Bless their hearts. The village is here to help if allowed.”

Today, at age 23, she has the village dancing and shouting. Richardson responded to pain and setbacks in the manner we hoped and prayed she would — like a champ

Consider me a wannabe play uncle whose niece just won the 100-meter gold at the world track and field championships. I just want to squeeze her in a hug as we jump for joy, celebrating her inspirational comeback and laughing in haters’ faces.

I’m not referring to those badass Jamaicans who’ve dominated the 100 lately. Any arguably shady comments from Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Shericka Jackson and Elaine Thompson-Herah are hereby cataloged as good ol’ fashioned smack. World-class sprinters are quite comfortable talking trash and those ladies have receipts, namely sweeps at last year’s world championships and the Tokyo Olympics.

No, I’m referring to haters who see Richardson as a poster child for everything they abhor about young, gifted and Black women, especially those who won’t conform. 

Sha'Carri Richardson,
Sha’Carri Richardson of Team United States looks on in the Women’s 200m Heats during day five of the World Athletics Championships Budapest 2023 at National Athletics Centre on August 23, 2023 in Budapest, Hungary. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

I can’t resist smiling and being warmed with satisfaction when I think about those detractors — many of them red-faced racists — imagining them watching Richardson’s victory lap with the American flag. Kool Moe Dee might ask, “How y’all like her now?” But we know it’s a rhetorical question. 

Even though Richardson has toned down the hair, nails and lashes, they still can’t stand her for being her Black self, which makes the victory that much sweeter.

The same feeling rushed in when LSU’s Angel Reese rankled factions of the nation by spanking Caitlin Clark and Iowa in the NCAA Final Four. I was looking forward to more in the World Cup, where former Racist-in-Chief Donald Trump and former Fox News host Megyn Kelly were among fake patriots rooting against our melanin-infused team. The Biggest Loser posted that “WOKE EQUALS FAILURE;” Kelly was “thrilled they lost, good. … If you don’t support America, I don’t support you.”

Witch, please. Along with 45 and Clarence Thomas, she can support deez nuts and gulp some hot STFU.

Their ilk can only (fake) love certain a type of colored folks, typically strait-laced and buttoned-down or staunch deniers of systemic injustice. The rest of us who aren’t asleep face scorn and derision on principle, as Richardson faced when her flame fluttered. She was defamed and disparaged, essentially for the crime of being Black, loud and flashy. 

But she took the barbs and bore down with a focus on self-improvement, providing an uplifting message for young and old.

“I would say ‘never give up,’” she told reporters after Monday’s race. “Never allow media, never allow outsiders, never allow anything but yourself and your faith to define who you are. I would say ‘Always fight. No matter what, fight.’”

Yes, it feels personal. 

We all know a young lady (or gentleman) who’s stared down a fork in the road, with one route seemingly easier than the other. Richardson got there by testing positive for marijuana ahead of the Olympics, sparking tremors along America’s racial and social fault lines. Then she failed to back up brash talk at the 2022 national championships, finishing 23rd out of 31 athletes who finished the 100, which subjected her to further mockery

The painless path would’ve meant less working out and less introspection. She could’ve lived off past glory and wallowed in regret. Instead, she doubled down on herself and heeded sound counsel from the village. When she destroyed the competition at nationals last month, she was refreshed inside and out, discarding her trademark wig seconds before winning the final. “I’m still that girl but I’m better,” she told Tiara Williams on Instagram. “I’m still that girl but I’m stronger. I’m still that girl but I’m wiser.”

Wise enough to understand that fame and infamy might pay the same, but neither determines her worth. She’s been cherished and despised but knows she’s a gem regardless of public sentiment.

“I’m not worried about the world anymore,” she said Sunday during qualifying. “I’ve seen the world be my friend, I’ve seen the world turn on me. At the end of the day, I’ve always been with me. God has always been with me. So being on this scale now, it’s my time,” she said. 

“It’s always been my time, but now it’s my time to actually do it for myself, and the people that felt like me, and the people that look like me, and the people that know the truth about themselves as well. I represent those people.” 

That’s my niecey, y’all. What a fine model!

Deron Snyder, from Brooklyn, is an award-winning columnist who lives near D.C. and pledged Alpha at HU-You Know! He’s reaching high, lying low, moving on, pushing off, keeping up, and throwing down. Got it? Get more at

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