The definition of racism within the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is: “poor treatment of or violence against people because of their race.”
Now that’s a bit of a no-brainer isn’t it? It’s well agreed upon that everyone recognizes what racism is. Some sociologists even suggest that racism is taught generation to generation, almost like culture.
But, the thing that’s swept under the rug with every forced apology, is that not everyone knows what racism feels like. Not everyone knows how to empathize with those that have been poorly treated or met with violence because of their skin colour. So, let me paint a picture for you.
This picture is going to start in the metropolis of sports, Whitby, ON, precisely last Sunday morning. Our team of 16, was warming up and preparing for the semi-final game versus the Clarington Shamrocks, the second best team in A-division in Intermediate Girls Box Lacrosse.
On Saturday we had played three times, losing only once to the top team in A-division, the Centre Wellington “Mohawks.” Let me just point out that the Centre Wellington “Mohawks,” are the faces of intermediate box lacrosse right now as the top of the A-division. With a crude interpretation of a Mohawk clad on their chests, I wonder if any of them know that several girls on my team are actually Mohawk.
But, that Sunday morning we got on the floor, sized up Clarington; and after the first period, we were winning 2-1.
Did we know that prior to the game Clarington’s coach had told his players they were each allowed ‘one penalty for anything?’ Did we to put into consideration that every time Clarington received a penalty, their coach, captain and assistant captain pleaded with the referee to lower the minutes? Did we think about how the referees would process Clarington fans yelling at the top of their lungs in the arena at every call? Nope.
This is where the definition of white privilege comes in handy to help understand our situation. An online piece titled ‘Defining White Privilege,’ with an add on of the University of Dayton, defines white privilege as “a right, advantage, or immunity granted to or enjoyed by white persons beyond the common advantage of all others; an exemption in many particular cases from certain burdens or liabilities.”
By the second period my team was playing with three girls on the floor against five; hitting someones stick would be called as slashing, checking on defence would be called as roughing, and anything that took a Clarington player off of her feet would be called for checking from behind. I suppose the referees wanted to make the game ‘safer,’ but imaginary penalties would have to be called both ways for that to work.
They weren’t, and that’s why this must be written.
As I’ve wanted to say since the start of this editorial; one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had was wanting to break down and cry because I was so frustrated with seeing my teammates get hit in the throat, from behind or whacked in the helmet; and watching the referees turn a blind eye or look up at the timer. Knowing my teammates could break bones, snap tendons, or simply never want to play again because the “ref didn’t see it,” was probably the hardest damn thing I’ve ever had to watch. It made me feel like our safety didn’t matter and that we as a team, didn’t matter.
You can sit there and think “it’s lacrosse, just accept it,” because I’ve watched enough lacrosse to know this happens to men’s teams as well. But I would love to see how anyone else would handle situations like this if the tables were turned. They wouldn’t. Playing against the referees has made indigenous teams stronger, and I take pride in the fact that the second best team in Ontario could only beat us if it was five on three.
So, if you ever want to know what racism really makes a person feel like, join a box lacrosse team.