Monday, August 29, 2022

Unreconciled racism: The BYU incident

 Last weekend, BYU fans directed racial slurs against several Black women on the Duke volleyball team. It seems that Rachel Richardson experienced the brunt of it including a threat from a white man in which she was told to "watch her back" on her way to the bus. She is the athlete who has spoken up about the violence. 

BYU responded late and poorly, but this was an all-around failure by all coaches and officials. 

It has been pointed out that BYU's response reflects their ignorance. Others have thrown up their hands in a "it's BYU--what do you expect?" kind of way. 

ALL institutions should already be doing this work. That Heather Olmstead, BYU coach, said that after talking to Richardson (and others) that she now "understand(s) areas where we can do better" is offensive. Stop asking Black people to educate you about racism. AND ALSO how do you not understand that yelling racial slurs is a problem? This is not an area to be worked on--this is an area that should be fully understood; there should be a plan in place for if this happens and more importantly a culture in which this behavior is not acceptable should already exist. 

This work should have been done already! This is basic stuff. Athletic departments and colleges/universities that are not having conversations about race, that do not have action plans in place are failing. 

This is not revelatory. 

The question/issue that remains for me is whether an institution such as BYU that has clearly not engaged at all with its racist, imperialist, and colonist past AND ongoing practices can actually do this work authentically. One of the Mormon church's crucial practices is missionary work. Missionary work is a form of imperialism. They recruit non-white people into their religion without having addressed the church's own history. How can BYU legitimately engage in anti-racist work? 

Arguably, the majority of higher ed institutions have not approached their own racism honestly, and many institutions fail to appropriately address and sanction racist fans (hey UIowa my alma mater, I am looking at you!) For some reason, BYU's actions and inactions seem more egregious, more hypocritical as they preach a morality that they cannot adhere to given their historical and current practices. 

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