A Feature Piece on Hannah George
Picture this. You are a white woman. You walk into a nail salon you have never been to before, in a part of your city you are unfamiliar with, but it has five stars so you book the appointment. You go inside, and there are about 20 people in there, every one of them is black. What is the first thing you notice? Your own skin color, the fact that you look different, and the fact that you stand out.
Imagine living in this scenario 24/7, a scenario that Hannah George, a pitcher at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, has had to navigate since elementary school, causing her to question her own beauty and appearance from an early age.
“I grew up in Harrisburg, North Carolina, and there were not many classmates that looked like me. At a very young age, I realized I was different. I remember my classmates had long, beautiful, straight hair, and I had braids they would frizz up, especially if my hair accessories fell out at recess,” she says. “I would get made fun of when that would happen and none of my teachers could help fix my hair, but they could fix my white classmates’ hair.”
These small microaggressions have huge impacts, and for George, they continued into the sport of softball, a love that George found in only the 1st grade. George looked up to women such as Michelle Moultrie, a member of Team USA, but unlike Moultrie, she wanted her home to be on the pitching mound.
“There are stereotypes in softball about where a black person should play. For example, when I discovered I wanted to be a pitcher, a lot of people were shocked because I was breaking that stereotype of black players only being outfielders,” said George. “I am glad I could be the black sheep in the pitching circle. It made me gritty, determined and hardworking because I wanted to show that black girls can pitch too.”
And George did just that, winning a state championship her senior year of high school, signing to UNC-CH, and becoming one of Carolina’s top players. However, both the pressure of being a role model for young black players and a top athlete often puts a lot of pressure on George, and that is when she turns to her faith.
“In the world of softball, it is so easy to get caught up on the wins and losses and to let that affect how you feel about yourself, but since my identity is not tied into something I do but in Christ, I better navigate myself through the roller coaster of softball,” she says. “Before every pitch, I draw a cross in the dirt to remind myself that God has my back and will help me through every battle and obstacle.”
In addition to softball, George’s religion has helped her navigate her own beliefs about beauty and her appearance that she had held to be true from such a young age.
“My faith is the reason I made it through the challenges I faced growing up in a predominantly white community,” says George. “When I was young, my favorite verse was Proverbs 31:30: “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting but the woman who fears the Lord shall be praised.” This verse helped me realize that your beauty is going to fade but who you are won’t; therefore, focus on your character, your values, and trust God.”
Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting but the woman who fears the Lord shall be praisedProverbs 31:30
Whether it be on the mound or in life, George’s faith has carried her through every obstacle; however, when it comes to systemic racism, there are things that teammates, peers, coaches, and allies can be doing to support George and the black community.
“I would encourage everyone to make meaningful relationships with people that do not look like you, to use your platform to speak up about what is going on, and to have hard conversations with peers, parents, family members, and so on,” she says. “This fight is nowhere near over. You cannot overcome 400 years of oppression in one day.”