Tag Archives: sports

White People Are The Worst – Hockey Edition

2 May

Trigger warning for racist and violent language and images

Last night, Montreal Canadiens player P. K. Subban scored the winning goal against the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal.

Predictably, Boston fans were outraged. In this case, though, with Subban as one of the few black players in the league, their anger took a sickeningly racist turn.

It was so bad that the n-word was briefly trending on Twitter in Boston. Seriously. Think about that for a minute. Think about how many people must have been tweeting one of the vilest, most degrading racist slurs in our language in order for it to be trending in a city the size of Boston. That is not just a few racist fans making everyone look bad – that is a whole fucking lot of people trying their hardest to make Subban (and all people of colour) aware of just how unwelcome they are among white people.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a sampling of some of the tweets:

That stupid n—-r doesn’t belong in hockey #whitesonly.”

F*** YOU N***** SUBBAN YOU BELONG IN A F****** HOLE NOT AN ICE RINK”

Someone needs to smack PK subban across his big n***** lips. #scumbag”

F*** PK Subban. F****** n*****. Wish he got sold”

Even worse, one fan tweeted this image (the account has since been deleted):

cafef2b0-d21c-11e3-9fdf-a7466a2ebd37_BmozgFiIUAAeFo8

This is not a fluke. This isn’t even the first time Subban has experienced a slew of racist tweets – the same thing happened while he was playing for Canada’s Olympic hockey team. This is not a little blip in an otherwise decent system. This is white people telling you what they really think of people of colour. Seriously, you don’t have to scratch too deeply to find the violent, still-beating heart of racism in most white folks. All it takes is your favourite sports team losing a playoff game, and out it comes.

You know what the real kicker is? I bet the majority of the people tweeting these things would say that they’re not racist. They would tell you that they have black friends. That the n-word is just a word, and anyway how come black people can use it and they can’t? They would tell you that it was just a joke. It was all just a stupid joke. Stop being so sensitive, jeez.

I can’t believe that this needs to be spelled out for some people, but: white people using the n-word is not a joke. Making references to slavery is not a joke. And Jesus Christ tweeting a picture of a noose at a black person is not a fucking joke.

The spectre of white violence is something that black people face every day. They live in a world where knocking on a white person’s door to ask for help after a car accident can result in them being shot in the face. They live in a world where defending yourself against an attacker can result in imprisonment, but meanwhile if they are murdered, unarmed and vulnerable, their killers can get off scot-free. They live in a world where a man can shoot and kill a black teenager because their music is too loud, and then not have the jury find enough evidence to convict him of first degree murder. They live in a world where deep-seated systematic oppression hounds them at every turn. To top it all off, they live in a world where white people are taught from birth to fear everything about them.

The Boston fans tweeting slurs at P. K. Subban aren’t an isolated minority. Donald Sterling, the racist owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, isn’t just a throwback to an earlier age where racism was acceptable. This is the racist landscape that we live in, and to which all white people, on some level or another, contribute. We need to acknowledge that every time we downplay events like this, every time we tell someone not to be so “sensitive,” every time we write stuff like this off as something other white people do, we are just making matters worse. Before any real change can take place, we, as white people, need to accept that fact that we all participate in and benefit from a system that privileges our interests above all others. And we need to understand that this same system makes life not just difficult but frightening and dangerous for people of colour.

Boston Bruins president Cam Neely issued a statement this morning, saying, “These classless, ignorant views are in no way a reflection of anyone associated with the Bruins organization.” Unfortunately, the truth is that they are a reflection of people associated with the Bruins organization –  perhaps not people employed by it, but certainly people who publicly cheer for the team and therefore contribute to how people outside of Boston perceive the Bruins. This statement is a start, but there needs to be more. We need more people calling out racism in sports – and everywhere – in order to affect change.

We need to show Subban and all other people of colour that we’ve got their back.

p.s. GO HABS GO

subban

The First Lesson Is: Don’t Be Afraid Of Falling

16 Sep

My sister-in-law brought me along to her roller derby practice last night. She’s been doing the derby thing since March of this year, and I have been hella jealous. If there was ever anyone who was meant to be a bad-ass lady who roller skates, wears short skirts, body-checks other women and has a hilariously punny name. I mean, COME ON. That sounds like heaven to me.

Given all of that, why have I never tried to join a derby league in Toronto? Oh, I don’t know, because of Reasons I guess. I work a lot of evenings and didn’t want to have yet another night away from my family. I wasn’t sure how to find a good league, and was kind of freaked out at the thought of starting a new activity by myself with people that I don’t know. I’m not sure that I’m cut out for team sports; the idea of being yelled at by a coach makes me want to cry.

Most of all, though, I was afraid.

I wasn’t even sure that I could roller skate, for one thing – the last time that I’d tried was something like fifteen years ago at the now-defunct Forum Roller Rink in Cambridge, Ontario. I was there to celebrate the birthday of this dude that I had a huge crush on, by the way, and let’s just say that my roller-skate-skills did not exactly win me a place in his heart. As I recall, I fell. A lot. Embarrassing, sprawling falls, the type that cause people to point and laugh. Eventually I just sat off on the side, nursed a Dr. Pepper and tried not to cry. Story of my life, am I right?

Another problem was that I typically don’t enjoy participating in activities that I am not already good at, especially activities that involve me failing publicly. I have a very low threshold for embarrassment. I’m also a perfectionist, and I get frustrated with myself very quickly if I don’t master a new skill, like, immediately. Given all of this, it’s kind of amazing that I ever try anything new at all, although if I really think about it I can see that all of the new activities that I’ve tried over the past few years have mostly been things that I knew that I was sort of predisposed to be good at. For example, I had a feeling that I would be awesome at yoga because I’ve always been really flexible. Blogging didn’t intimidate me because, all modesty aside, I knew that I was a half-decent writer. I knew that I would be good at drinking scotch because it’s no secret that I’m a pretentious, snobby asshole.

I am not really good at any of the skills necessary for roller derby, other than a love of short skirts and the fact that I’m a hilariously scrappy fighter.

All kitted out - sadly no skirt, though

All kitted out – sadly no skirt, though. And yes, my shirt says, “The Bell Jar” on it.

Finally, the biggest fear holding me back was that I was afraid of falling. I was afraid of falling because of my bad knee. I was afraid of falling and being run over by other, faster, better skaters. Mostly, though, I was afraid of falling and looking stupid.

Imagine my surprise when my sister-in-law told me that the first lesson was going to be learning how to fall. Because, she said, I was going to fall whether I liked it or not, and learning how to do it properly would help prevent injury. Being a good skater wasn’t so much avoiding falling as knowing how to do it in a safe and controlled way.

So after wobbling pathetically around the rink a few times on my borrowed roller skates, I let her teach me how to fall. I learned how to fall on one knee. I learned how to fall on two knees. I learned how to do a four-point fall on my knees and forearms. I learned how to get up safely and quickly after each type of fall. Amazingly, after a good solid half hour of falling, I suddenly felt much more comfortable on my skates.

I had a sort of epiphany last night, skating around and around that open-air arena under the darkening Alberta sky. I realized how very much I need to learn how to fall in basically every area of my life. I need to learn that it’s possible to make mistakes and even fail and then get back up again and keep going. Right now, the thought of making mistakes in just about any arena – work, being a parent, my interpersonal relationships – makes me want to throw up. I feel like making a mistake is the end of the line, that there’s no going back, that whatever I’ve done will colour that relationship or work environment forever. The funny thing is that it’s almost never other people who make me feel that way; I make myself feel that way. If I inadvertently say something hurtful, or if I forget to do something or get something wrong, I have a really hard time forgiving myself and getting past it. To me, making mistakes feels like the world is ending.

But you can’t live like that, you know? You can’t just not make mistakes – that’s an impossible goal. Even if you are living the safest, most risk-free life ever, you’re still going to make mistakes. And anyway I don’t want to live that life – I want to take risks, I want to try new things, I want to push myself. So I think that I have to learn how to make mistakes, by which I mean how to react in an emotionally appropriate manner to my mistakes, and also how to work to quickly fix them instead of diving under the covers and crying for three days. I want to learn how to have arguments or even fights that don’t end with me apologizing profusely (or sobbing incoherently) because any kind of conflict makes me feel sick.

Most of all, I need to realize that if I want to succeed at something – anything – I might have to fail first.

There’s a theory by mid-century child pediatrician and child psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott that says that one of the many reasons why play is important for children is because it’s a safe place for children to make mistakes. In play, children are able to explore the world and themselves without fear; they are able to try new things and make mistakes without serious consequences. Winnicott says, “It is playing and only in playing that the individual child is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self.”

I think that maybe I need to re-learn how to play. I need more spaces in my life that feel safe enough to fall and fail in. I need to find activities that help me feel more comfortable taking risks in the rest of my life. Maybe roller derby is the perfect place to start.

Still a bit wobbly

Still a bit wobbly

And for the record, the rest of the practice was fantastic. I learned how to skate on one foot, how to stop and start, how to turn corners. My sister-in-law taught me how to “get a whip,” which involves skating up behind someone, grabbing them by the hips and pulling yourself forward and past them. I got to watch the more experienced derby ladies skate up to thirty times around the track in five minutes. I got to watch the “benched” players practice skating formations, jamming and taking hits. I watched people fall over and over again, only to get right back up and keep going.

It was amazingly great.

SKATING LIKE A BADASS

SKATING LIKE A BOSS