GeneralNewsMedia Roundup: Elevating BIPOC Athlete Voices Edition

Rachel Perkins Rachel PerkinsJune 17, 2020

On June 3rd, FasterSkier published a statement regarding our commitment to diversifying the stories we cover and to providing a platform for people of color in the ski community to share their experiences. We aim to highlight the philanthropic actions members of the ski community have taken to support disadvantaged skiers and to promote inclusivity in sport.

We’ve listened to your recommendations and followed the leads. We’ve spoken with clubs who have sought grants to introduce local Latino youth to cross country skiing. We spoke to a coach at a holistic education facility for court-involved and at-need adolescents that incorporates endurance exercise and counseling to create behavioral changes while supporting academic progress and skill development, creating opportunities for future employment. This is just the beginning, and these stories take time. 

In the meantime, here is a selection of articles and audio that we have found impactful in understanding the issues at hand, both in the realm of sport and the greater issues our country is grappling with. If other media has stood out to you recently, feel free to share it in the comments below or reach out to us at info@fasterskier.com.

What We’re Reading:

No Change in Silence” by Joe Gray in Trail Runner Magazine

Those who follow the mountain running scene likely recognize the name Joe Gray. Over the last decade, the former steeplechaser has solidified himself at the forefront of short-course mountain running. Gray won the Mt. Washington Road Race four consecutive years (2014-2018), is an 18-time national champion in USATF mountain running events, and a two-time world mountain running champion, earning the top spot in 2016 in Bulgaria and again in 2019 in Argentina. By popular vote, Gray was recently named the World Mountain Running Association Greatest Men’s Mountain Runner of All Time.

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The 36-year-old Colorado Springs resident is also one of the few black professional trail runners. On June 3rd, Trail Runner Magazine released his op ed “No Change in Silence”, where he recounts his own experiences with racism. His voice was also featured in RunnersWorld in September, 2019 where he discusses the lack of diversity in distance running.

Ahmaud Arbery and Whiteness in the Running World” by Alison Désir on Outside Online

Alison Désir is the founder of Harlem Run, an inclusive running group based in Harlem, NY that empowers people of all ages, abilities, and ethnicities to “run the streets of our iconic neighborhood and get fit together”. She is also the founder of the grassroots activism group Run 4 All Women, which took off after a run from Harlem to Washington DC to raise money for women’s reproductive rights, and of the Global Womxn Run Collective, which tackles issues like the minority and decreased visibility of women in leadership positions in the running industry and pay inequity. Yes — she wears a lot of hats.

In her Outside Online piece, Désir writes about how she was affected by the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, seeing her own son in Arbery’s image and reflecting on how fear for her own safety affects her running practice. After feeling frustration about the lack of action regarding Arbery’s murder, Désir took to social media, sparking “viral interest” across about the injustice.

“I fumed quietly until the horrific video was released earlier this week. I gathered myself and watched the video—a mistake—and took to social media to call out the running media and finally ask: Where is everybody? This lit a fire in the global running community in a way that I could not have predicted. Suddenly, there was viral interest in what had happened to Ahmaud, and cries for justice from people who boldly admitted they had never heard of Ahmaud before. (I wondered: But don’t these same people read The New York Times?) The responses were mostly appropriate, but all too late. And, I worry, they were just a moment in time, rather than part of a commitment to dismantling white supremacy and the systems that make a murder like Ahmaud’s possible—and even despicably mundane.”

Désir leaves readers with starting points for self-reflection and education to support white Americans in committing to social justice and anti-racism. 

Black Track Athletes Share Their Encounters With Racism in America” on Sports Illustrated

In this article, Sports Illustrated spoke with 14 black professional track and field athletes, including 6x world championship medalist and 3x Olympic medalist in the long and triple jumps Will Claye, world record holder, world champion and Olympic gold medalist Delilah Muhammed, and the 400 meter favorite for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, Michael Norman. 

Each athlete was asked three questions: What was your first or most impactful experience with racism that has shaped you into the person you are today? To you, what does it mean to be Black in America? What are you doing and what do you hope other people can do to enact or encourage change in society?

Sharing the moment that first impacted her, hurdler Shamier Little told SI about being publicly called a n—– by an elderly white woman. The situation escalated quickly and police stepped in, however, they shrugged her aside, invalidating her emotional reaction. 

“At that moment, I stopped trying to make myself seen. Because to them, I was just another Black person and “n—–” was just another word. I went from feeling like I was easy to understand and empathize with, to feeling like people who do not look like me do not understand me. On top of that, they don’t give a damn about me. I realized that I had been moving through life being so naive and unaware of what it means to be Black in America.”

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In answer to the third question, shot putter Darrell Hill said:

“Being Black in America is to be loved as much as you can entertain. It is to be loved as much as you can dribble a ball. It is to be loved as well as you can catch a pass. Being Black in America is to live inside of a box and systemically bound to that box. And then to be told, Look at how great you’re doing! Racism doesn’t exist. Things have come so far from the Civil Rights era. But at that point, still not be equal.”

What We’re Listening To:

Running While Black” on the Keeping Track Podcast with professional runners Alysia Montaño, Roisin McGettigan, and Molly Huddle

In this episode, former and current professional runners Alysia Montaño, Roisin McGettigan, and Molly Huddle lead a roundtable discussion on racism featuring Alison Désir (highlighted above). Montaño and Désir share their experiences with racism and discuss whether running is a white space, offer suggestions for raising racially conscious children, and recommend books and other resources for white allies to understand the roots and constructs of racial injustice in America and how to take action against them. 

 “All this brilliance and energy that we have, imagine if we didn’t have to fight for simple recognition,” says Désir.  “I do wonder what I would be doing if I didn’t have to fight to be seen.”

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Montaño, who is seven-time national champion and 2016 Olympian in middle distance track events, has also made waves by speaking out against Nike and advocating for the rights of athletes whose contracts are often put on hold during pregnancy through the NY Times Dream Maternity Op Doc.

In the podcast, she discusses the blessing and curse of having a large platform that reaches beyond the black community, feeling the need to carry the load for those whose voices are not heard. 

“I don’t get a break, I have to create a space for myself… I want to write a fitness book. Look at your fitness books, how many people of color are on the cover of your fitness books? Alysia has to be the one who’s gonna dig and I’m gonna be in your face, I’m gonna make you feel uncomfortable, and I’m gonna actually say when I pitch my book, ‘Take a look at your racks, how many people of color do you see?’”

The Killing of George Floyd and the Origins of American Racism” on The New Yorker Politics And More Podcast

Disclaimer up front: this podcast episode is devoid of sport. Nevertheless, it’s a must-listen. Host Dorothy Wickenden interviews anti-racism trainer and co-founder of the Racial Equity Institute, Suzanne Plihcik.

Plichik explores her own introduction to anti-racism work and how her thoughts and actions about the topic became refined. A poignant exchange occurs when Wickenden, the podcast host, states that diversity training sessions “have almost no effect if any, on how white Americans go about their lives. So maybe you could talk a little bit about what makes the tactics and mission of the Racial Equity Institute different.”

Plichik responds, “Yeah, we don’t do diversity training. We don’t do prejudice reduction. All of those things have their values. I’m sure, but even if you were able to make people more sensitive and, and reduce prejudice, bigotry and racial prejudice, you then send them out into a world that is operating from a structure that promotes the supremacy of white people that ensures that whatever you do is going to disproportionately advantage white people, even when that’s not your intent. So it is very easy for them then to be pulled back into that culture, into those structures and nothing meaningful changes or happens. We believe that’s because it is the structure that is at the root. It is an under the structure. We say there’s a groundwater. And, um, that is that philosophical, underpinning, those narratives of racism.”

Fastest known times and selling used bikes, and failing fixie kids,” on the CyclingTips Podcast

There’s an audio nugget in this episode we’d like to highlight: minutes 4:20-9:00. In this audio snippet, listeners are introduced to cyclist Justin Williams. He is a black man born and raised in South-Central Los Angeles. Williams is an accomplished bike racer and has used his platform to build equity in the sport. 

In the CyclingTips podcast, we hear about the walls he and his friends confronted as they attempted to enter the prickly regional road racing scene from a welcoming fixie scene. “We had this brilliant opportunity to steal this brand new demographic of people and they would show up to races and be treated like shit.”

Listening to Williams is an opportunity to hear how one person is creating a more inviting and diverse racing environment.

Rachel Perkins

Rachel Perkins

Rachel is an endurance sport enthusiast based in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado. You can find her cruising around on skinny skis, running in the mountains with her pup, or chasing her toddler (born Oct. 2018). Instagram: @bachrunner4646

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