By Ian Storrar
On July 2nd, the news broke that UK Olympian Alice Dearing would not be allowed to wear the swim cap of her choice. This wasn't some dispute over fashion, as you may have first assumed. Instead, it was about racism. Systemic racism built into institutions like the International Swimming Federation.
The news (link to Guardian article) reporting explained of the gear in question that "the caps did not fit “the natural form of the head.” In case you haven't figured it out or read the article, Alice Dearing is black. She's "the first black female swimmer to represent Team GB at the Olympics." You see, swim caps are designed for hair like mine - white people hair. The article does a great job explaining why this is a problem and why it's racist. I'll move on.
Sticking to the British, we heard this week about two-time Paralympic world champion sprinter Olivia Breen who was told by an official that her shorts were too short. The Washington Post covers the story here. This story is about sexism, at least. To state the obvious, we've heard no stories of male sprinters being told by officials their shorts are too tight.
On the same day (July 20th - just yesterday), US Paralympian swimmer Becca Meyers' regretfully pulled out of the Olympics because the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee hadn't allowed for her Personal Care Assistant to go with her, even though she is deaf and blind and has been traumatized before by being left alone without adequate support to find food.
These stories are examples of how institutions and those in power can do great harm to individuals and persist ongoing forms of racism, sexism, ableism, and other oppressive structures in society. In some of these instances, it's unlikely that anyone intends to be part of this pattern and are simply being obtuse.
Nevertheless, I believe we need to call these situations out, as Christians and as members of our society (never mind sitting in a CRT master's seminar) and do something. So, while you may feel the need to contact the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee (please do), I invite you to take action in a couple of local, direct ways that can help to change the patterns of injustice we are surrounded by:
*Join us on Thursday July 22nd, because sometimes we just need to elevate youth voices, especially from underrepresented communities, in voicing their needs (rather than assuming we know what's "normal").
**As I write this, we need just 10 more signatures to hit the next milestone. Help us over the top and beyond. Who knows, maybe one of the people needing this service will be in the Paralympics one day - but actually that shouldn't and doesn't matter.
Everyone has a right to adequate public transit regardless of ability or whether they will be in the 2024 Paris Olympics. Let's start in Oakland and Alameda County and hope we don't have these stories 3 years from now.
The Mouse is the long-running news source for St. John's. With decades of history, our blog now features the same great news about what's happening at St. John's with a more frequent publication cycle.