Violence On And Off The Ice

Violence On And Off The Ice:

Twitter Racism And The NHL

By Guest Contributor David J. Leonard


Moments after Joel Ward’s overtime goal secured a playoff victory for the Washington Capitals over Boston last month, the twittersphere exploded with a barrage of racial epithets, threats of violence, and stereotypes.

Editor’s Note: Trigger Warning under the cut–pictures of racist slurs

Here is but a sampling of the vitriol and hostility resulting from his goal (for complete list, go here):

Receiving national attention, such racism was dismissed through narratives of fan ignorance, fan drunkenness, fan anger, and a myriad of other excuses that explain the situation as of little importance to understanding race in contemporary society. For example, at DCist, shawnwhiteboy offered the following response to an article about these tweets:

The obvious problem with twitter is that any drunk asshole with a smart phone can use a hashtag and get ‘hits’. The problem with the media is that you cover these drunk assholes as news. When will this end? Is this comment I am typing news worthy? No! What’s worse, the last sentence of this article lumps all bruin fans together with those drunk assholes. Boston fans are passionate and sometimes obnoxious but not racist. Having lived in boston and dc for 5 years each, people are not more enlightened in one place over the other. Okay, rant over.. . Those racist comments are terrible, how server going to get back at those fuckers listed here?

In an ESPN story covering the backlash against Ward, another commenter offered a similar refrain, identifying the Internet as the reason for such outbursts: “It isn’t at all surprising to see the slew of racist comments after the game,” he wrote. “Social media allows total anonymity if the user desires; these things can be said with no fear of reprisal. Such bravery!” These explanations were commonplace not only in the aftermath of Ward’s game winning goal, but following a game less than two weeks later.

With less than a minute to go in a game versus the New York Rangers, with his team up by a goal, Ward committed a penalty that sent him to the box for four minutes. Before he would be able to step back onto the ice, the Rangers would score two power play goals, sending the Capitals to a crushing defeat. Less than two weeks after facing a barrage of racial taunts and epithets from Bruins fans, Ward now faced similar violence from Capitals fans.

A common response to both of these incidences has been to link them to hockey; that above all else, the hostility embodies racism in hockey culture. Seemingly ignoring and erasing online racism of all kinds and those particular to virtual sports landscapes, hockey fans have become the problem rather than a symptom. Ironically, such a narrative imagines hockey as the “South” of sports culture.

Given its whiteness and even the working-class demographic of its fan base, commentators have sought to identity this as reflective of hockey culture, rather than sports or even society at large. Race and nation have a particular history within hockey. As I wrote a couple months back following an incident where fans threw a banana at Boston’s Wayne Simmonds, whiteness, privilege, and racism are all part of the hockey story:

Others connected to the sport were not so willing (despite their having greater power and privilege) to reflect on the racial realities and hostilities of the NHL in this moment or elsewhere. While describing it as a “stupid and ignorant action,” Commissioner Gary Bettman made clear that incident was “in no way representative of our fans or the people of London, Ontario.” Maxine Talbot, a teammate of Simmonds, summarily dismissed the incident as “isolated” that said little about the state of hockey: “It’s not like there’s a problem with racism in our league. It’s one person!”

Dismissing it as an aberration and the work of some ignorant fans, the response fails to see the broader history of the NHL, not to mention the larger racial issues at work. While Bettman and others sought to isolate the incidence as the work of a single person who isn’t representative of hockey culture or society at large, others pointed to the persistence of racism within the NHL. Kevin Weeks, who had a banana thrown at him during the 2002 Stanley Cup Playoffs, noted his lack of surprise that Simmonds was subjected to such racism: “I’m not surprised. We have some people that still have their heads in the sand and some people that don’t necessarily want to evolve and aren’t necessarily all that comfortable with the fact that the game is evolving.”

Yet, it would be a mistake to link these visible instances of racism to the whiteness of hockey, its racial politics, or resistance to integration given the ubiquity of racism online and offline. While comforting to construct racial hostility through hockey in that it allows to preserve the myths of integration and breaking down social distance as a weapon against racism, similar racial hostility and tweeted racial epithets can be seen with other sports as well. In the last week, these tweets have been sent out:

While the incidents involving Ward have received ample coverage in parts because of the comfort of blaming hockey, online racism directed at black athletes is not particular to one sport. Integration or greater presence has not led to full acceptance.

Continue reading @ Violence On And Off The Ice: Twitter Racism And The NHL | Racialicious – the intersection of race and pop culture.

NewBlackMan (in Exile): Jim Crow University?: The State of Racial Tolerance on America’s Campuses

Jim Crow University?: The State of Racial Tolerance on America’s Campuses

by David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan

Racial slurs; racist graffiti; taunts and jeers; nooses hanging from doors; and blackface. No, I am not talking about the South circa 1960, but the climate of America’s colleges and universities. If you look around the country, it would seem that some want to take our colleges back to the Jim Crow era when schools and curriculum were white only.

In the last two months of the mockery of post-race America has been quite evident. The “N word” was scrawled on a dorm room and a bathroom at Fordham University. That same month, students at University of Wisconsin-Madison hurled bottles and racial slurs at two African American students who had the audacity to walk past THEIR fraternity house on THEIR campus. At Cornell University, black students walking through campus faced a barrage of racial epithets, flying bottles and catcalls of “Trayvon.” At the Ohio State University, since April, racist and anti-religious epithets have been found on a dorm room door and within the community, including the defacement of a mural of President Barack Obama. These incidents followed the appearance of “Long Live Zimmerman” on a campus building.

For white students the college experience is defined by parties, football games, and new experiences; for students of color it is one often defined by hostility, racist violence, and the same old experiences. Last year, “All N-word’s must die” was found at Williams College. At University of Alabama, a white student screamed a racial slur at a white student, with slurs popping up on campus sidewalks. At Murray State, a faculty member chastised a black student for arriving 15 minutes late to a film screening, noting, “slaves never show up on time.” And the list of incidences goes on and on. This is the sort of racism and violence that has become all too common at America’s liberal institutions of higher education, those places often praised as the breeding ground for the post-racial millennial generation.

Latinos, Asian Americans, and Native Americans also face an increasingly racially hostile environment evidence in cowboy and Indian parties, anti-immigrant chants at basketball games, and countless other examples. While certainly more visible as a result of the power of social media, racism is obviously nothing new to America’s colleges and universities. Whether looking at the history of integration or the practice of “ghetto parties,” institutions of higher education have a long history of racial injustice.

Students of color and faculty of color experience this history each and every day. According to Howard J. Ehrlich, director of The Prejudice Institute, between 850,000 and one million students (roughly 25 percent of students of color and five percent of white students) experience racially and ethnically-based violence (name calling, verbal aggression, harassing phone calls and “other forms of psychological intimidation”) each year. And this only reflects what is reported and what is seen. As Leslie Picca and Joe Feagin have discovered with Two-Faced Racism: Whites in the Backstage and Frontstage, white students use the n-word and tell racist jokes with frequency, a reality that impacts the culture and environment of America’s colleges and universities.

The Jim Crow signs remain visible even as conservatives whine about liberal universities and the discrimination of conservative students. I haven’t seen any Bigots and Liberal parties, or groups of conservative student subjected to catcalls and slurs. There hasn’t been an assault on white history and literature, which remain central to the college experience.

It is also increasingly difficult for ethnic studies, evidence in the attacks on Mexican American Studies in Arizona or the recent blog post in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Excoriated as a “cause not a course of student,” and denounced as “promoting resentment toward a race or class of people” the white only signs are being constructed in classrooms and in college communities throughout the country. These unwelcome signs demonstrate a lack of commitment to and value in diversity, but also how the presence of students of color and the practices of African American and other ethnic programs challenges the very privileges of whiteness.

“What I’ve learned most explicitly about the often racist depictions of Back Studies at primarily White institutions, is that it is a by-product of the on-going project of the discipline to make explicit connections to the work that we do and the communities of folks that exist beyond the four walls of the classroom,” notes Mark Anthony Neal. “Even as some Black Studies faculty are no invested in such a project–and such a project looks very different now than it did during the 1960s, Black Studies continues to reject that idea that it exists in a vacuum.” The continued attacks on the fields of ethnic studies and students of color makes this all too clear.

via NewBlackMan (in Exile): Jim Crow University?: The State of Racial Tolerance on America’s Campuses.