Rafaela Silva (pictured) is a 24-year-old Olympic champion with an incredible success story.
Silva was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which is where the 2016 Olympic Games are happening this year. As an Afro-Brazilian, Silva has endured the struggles of racism in her Eurocentric nation. This past Monday (August 8th), Silva made history by winning a gold medal at this year’s women’s judo competition at the Rio Olympics.
She defeated Dorjsürengiin Sumiya of Mongolia in the 57-kilogram division of the contest. This was the first time a Brazilian woman had ever won a gold medal in the judo competition at the Olympics. Silva’s amazing path toward greatness was covered by Sports Illustrated in an article that was published last month.
In 2012, Silva came close to quitting judo after a demoralizing life experience with racism during the London Olympics. In that year’s contest, Silva was disqualified from competing after she used an illegal hold during a preliminary round in the judo competition.
Racist social media users then went on a rampage against Silva and posted a legion of ugly comments laced with bigotry and hatred.
“I walked to my room, I found all those insults on social media, they were criticizing me, calling me monkey, so I got really, really upset. I thought about leaving judo,” Silva told CBC News.
Silva’s family said that she became deeply depressed after that.
“She watched television all day and cried alone in front of the TV. Our mother cooked her favorite things to cheer her up, but that didn’t work,” Raquel Sliva told the New York Times. Raquel is Silva’s sibling.
Racist trolls on the internet really seem to go after black women the worst. However, Silva’s amazing story shows what happens when a person continues to thrive regardless of the deep-seated racism blacks have to experience all across the world.