Biles will forever be a role model for aspiring gymnasts, little girls, for current and former foster youth. Let her also be a role model for anyone who needs rest in a restorative way.
Your health is your wealth and it is non-negotiable. Period. Give Simone Biles her flowers, for she is a superhero.
And not just for Black people or for women, but for everyone living in capitalist societies that profit from the false narrative that rest is counterproductive.
Simone Biles is a champion for liberation through her public acceptance and acknowledgement of her need for rest, which is an inevitably radical act of resistance.
My name is Ivory Bennett. I am a teacher and a cheer coach at a Title I school in Texas where Friday night football reigns supreme, public school students are tested around three dozen times each school year, and where teaching factual history is illegal.
Notably, I am also a former foster youth with a high ACEs score and subsequently, juvenile diabetes. I love my students, but the culture of education suggests that if I am not suffering insidiously on their behalf, then I am not fully invested in the work that I do. Again, another blatant capitalistic lie designed to oppress educators into silent suffering.
Teaching is hard, exhausting work. And the plight of a high school English teacher whose salary is tied to the standardized testing performances of students who are historically and systemically illiterate is especially unnerving.
Every single day I contemplate quitting. My alarm sounds, I fantasize about being financially secure, I think about all the ways my life could have been different and easier had my parents been able to care for me, had I not developed an expensive autoimmune disorder.
I think about my student loan payments and how I no longer want to become a principal. Did I waste two years of my life on that masters? And then I think about my fiancé and our K-1 visa and the income requirement for that process … and I drag myself to work for an average of 11 to 12 hours each day, which does not include my several side hustles.
I start teaching in one day, after only a few weeks of rest. I am hoping to have a more empowered narrative moving into this school year.
Ms. Biles said something that might change my morning monologue, that might give me the courage to be brave enough, risky enough to take a grand leap of faith into the unknown: “I have to put my pride aside. I have to do what’s right for me and focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and well-being. That’s why I decided to take a step back.”
Granted, I am sure that Ms. Biles has much more money than me, access to the best that health care can provide for her holistic well-being, and a formidable support system in place. But, we do share something in common: We both endured the foster care system. We both survived the trauma of abuse. We both know what it feels like to be without our biological mothers and fathers. And we both work diligently to achieve our goals.
I admire her work ethic. And I admire her commitment to healing her body, the same body that carried her through every single achievement, no matter what.
Ms. Biles will forever be a role model and historical figure for aspiring gymnasts, for little girls, for current and former foster youth, and for any whose odds are stacked against them. Let her also be a role model for anyone who needs rest in a radical, restorative way.
Lastly, Biles is a bold and beautiful example of duality. You can be strong and choose rest. You can be a champion whose health is more valuable than prestige. You can be courageous and vulnerable. You can be a hard worker and a rest ambassador.
Biles’ choice to prioritize her health does not make her weak; in fact, her resistance to the degenerative narrative of grind culture illustrates strength and wisdom that few may ever come to fully grasp.
The Nap Ministry said it best in two tweets: “I want Black folks retired permanently from labor. We’ve done enough for this trashy system. Rest.” “This work is centered on Black liberation and because our liberation is a balm for all of humanity, we all can get free. Give thanks for restoring humanity via rest and resistance.” — @TheNapMinistry
Our ancestors survived so that we may thrive. Honor them through rest, consider it an offering for their amazing sacrifices. And rest well without regret. Every reprieve is a radical act of resistance.
Thank you, Ms. Simone Biles. I am proud of you. I love you. You are forever strong, forever a champion. May we all rest radically well in your honor.