The true meaning of racism has been lost in our culture. One off-color comment from a black man on international TV and people are to quick to call him a racist. However, the terms racist and racism are being twisted to get a point of view across when actually the correct terminology should be prejudice, or pointing out the fact that there are so few people of African descent participating in the winter game.
Racism is not just using a racial slur. Racism is when a system of people use power and politics to oppress another group of people. When we look at racism we need to see an oppression experienced by black and minority ethnic groups predominantly on the basis of their skin color, and of their culture and identity. Blacks, no matter how hard we try, no matter how many chemical peels or nose jobs, cannot remove the hue from our skin.
We need to also see an oppression that can be a feature of interpersonal relationships and an oppression that can be a feature of institutional practices. We need not look too far into history to see Jim Crow laws, “Colored Only” signs, and lynchings to see signs of judicial, social, and government institutions using their power to oppress a community of people.
Where are the images of Debi Thomas being shown so that minority girls can think they, too, can be in the ice skating world? Or why has no one ever talked about Mabel Fairbanks, who lived in Harlem and was denied the ability to be a professional skater, rejected by Ice Capades because of her skin color? Why has no one spoken about how she broke down the colored doors and trained many skaters and even paired Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner when they were 9 and 11 years old, but only after 20 and more years of racial slurs, doors slammed in her face, and signs being posted up about her not being wanted at the skating rinks?
Racism has become covert and hidden but many people do not want to believe that it still exists. Institutional racism has been defined as ordinary people going about their normal day to day business but producing outcomes that are disadvantageous to black and ethnic minority groups. Race isn’t a deck of cards that blacks put on the table; it was handed to us the very beginning when we where brought over to the Americas, and had to fight for equality and social justice.
Jimmy (The Greek) Snyder was ejected from the public eye in 1988 when, on Martin Luther King’s birthday, he said that blacks are better at sports because of slave plantation breeding techniques. “During the slave period, the slave owner would breed his big black with his big woman so that he would have a big black kid – that’s where it all started.”
His comments dehumanized African-Americans and labelled us as nothing more than cattle or dogs that were bred to show off, to do work or make money for white slave masters. Al Campanis’s comments were taken out of context and he probably should not have been fired. And Rush Limbaugh is the world’s biggest joke and has never been seen favorably in the eyes of the African-American community.
But what it all boils down to is that the word “racism” has lost its meaning. The backlash at Bryant Gumbel’s comments are only from people who are not willing to face the facts of the creation of the terms race, racist, and racism. What I’d like Bryant Gumbel to really do is to promote and support the efforts of Vonetta Flowers, Aaron Parchem, Shani Davis, Lascalles Brown, Morgan Alexander, Bill Schuffenhauer, Randy Jones, Jarome Iginla, and Robin Szolkowy. Who are they? They are the only people of African descent participating in the 2006 Winter Olympics.
Resources: Friends of Minority Figure Skaters, ISIS Entertainment, and Harlem Skate are the only organizations tryjng to help raise the $30K-$100K a year it takes to compete professionally in ice skating and other winter sports.
Keep It Greasy