First of all, I would like to thank each and every person who contributed to this blog entry, from the photographers, skaters and refs. Thank you for your input.
When I interviewed DBC at Asheville this year, one of the things she said that made me chuckle was
|Photo by Bill Rhodes|
"The River City Rollergirls are the most ethnically diverse league in the WFTDA and have the most minorities on their all star team. We had since the 2010 season, 7 African Americans, 2 hispanic and two Asians on the All Star team Charter. We were the first WFTDA all Star team to have enough Minorities that we could have a full pack on the track that wasn’t white. No other WFTDA All Star Team to date can say that. The first time I realized that we were indeed the most ethnically diverse league was our first appearance at ECDX when one of my team mates came back to the team and informed us that someone had said we had too many black girls on the team. This got me to thinking and researching and I realized that yes… we were indeed the most ethnically diverse team. This made me sad because we aren’t a major team in the WFTDA.
How does something like that happen in the capital of the Confederacy, where we have a museum of the Confederacy and people with Confederate flags still flying high in their front yards? It’s all about the marketing and what people see. Please name the last WFTDA Tournament Poster or promotional item that featured a minority skater. When it comes to WFTDA.tv interviews I am happy to say I was one of three Minorities that have been interviewed since its inception. While there are more and more minority skaters out there, there are usually one, maybe two on an all star team. These are the teams that are seen by hundreds and thousands when they play in tournaments and games that are broadcasted/streamed internationally.
It’s not completely the fault of how things are marketed though. Some minority girls, especially African American girls, are prissy and they don't want to mess up/sweat out their hair. They don’t want to be physically fit; they want to be cute, not sweaty. However, that is just some not all. The main way you recruit more minority skaters is by person to person interaction. Answer these questions.
1. Where are your promotions being held when you go out into the community?
2. Are they in a predominantly white area?
3. Who goes out to promote when you promote as a league?
4. Is it the same 5 tatted white girls with blue hair?
5. Do any of your minority skaters go out promoting and recruiting?
but I was the only minority in my class room a lot of the time. As I child you don’t realize you're different, but as you get older it becomes more and more obvious as stereotypes start to sink into our thought processes.
At River City, when we go out into the community we always have a multicultural group of skaters out there. I have to admit when I went out places, I made sure I looked my absolute best and my hair was on point because again, it’s one of the main things I hear. "I don’t want to mess up my hair." If you’re out there and your hair’s on point, they realize that it’s possible to still play and look good for work the next morning. It’s silly I know, but it’s only weird if it doesn’t work. And it’s worked time and time again. As a transitioning INTJ thinker of tomorrow to an ENTJ leader of today, I found that the more proactive you are, the more you walk up and talk to someone when you’re out, the more you engage the customer, the more they want to come and see and then do. Roller Derby is a viable sport, if it’s promoted as a sport.
More questions you should ask yourself when you wonder about why there aren’t more minorities out there:
1. How many minority skaters are sponsored by skate companies?
2. How does your league present derby? As a sport, or a family, or a girl’s only club?
All of these are factors on how the sport of Roller Derby is perceived by minorities. Minorities are more inclined to join a sports team, but try to avoid cliquey group activities with what they perceive is a "bunch of white girls" who they see as catty. It hurts to hear, however, it all plays into stereotypes. I’m African American and some of the first things someone asks me in an attempt for conversation are: "How many kids do you have? Have you heard the new Two Chainz album? Can you believe what TI did?" Unfortunately, I then have to correct them by informing them I have no children, and I don’t listen to current rap music, and I am a purveyor of Scandinavian rock. This makes them instantly uncomfortable because they have stereotyped me; they know they’ve stereotyped me, I know it and now we have that uncomfortable silence and no conversation. By breaking stereotypes and presenting the sport of Roller Derby as multicultural sport in advertising, in interviewing, at promotional events and on the big stage with wftda.tv, tournaments, and print ads we can actually increase the amount of minorities coming into the sport. "
"I am obviously a minority being Mexican and all, I have been the only one in my old league but never felt differently. Now that I've moved from VA to CA I still don't see a lot of minorities in my new league which is weird because being Mexican in California is the norm. I mean there are a hand full but I would have expected the majority. It doesn't bother me but I couldn't tell you why."
"I know one of the things that was a stand out for me was going to a league and seeing that there is one other black person there and they treated me worse than anything. She actually came out and said she liked being the only black girl on the team and wanted to keep it that way. After awhile she basically ignored me or threw little barbs out during tean meetings. Most girls chalked it up to personality differences but then another AA female showed to fresh meat a few months later and she treated her bad as well. She eventually moved to another league."
|Photo by Gene Lazo|
Do U Juana
|Photo by I-Lie Kit Ruff|
Regardless, I feel privileged to have so many awesome tribal ladies on my team. I think our diversity makes us stronger, and sends great messages to communities around us about unity. Our last two home bouts were held on the reservation- And at half-time we had traditional dances at one. It was amazing. I have pictures. Anyways, please tell me if you hear of other tribal members who skate."
"This is the only sport that I've participated in and I have forgotten about the color of my skin. It wasn't always this way. When I first started playing, I was the only non-white skater on a new team and no one seemed interested in becoming best of friends and that was frustrating to me. However, after being involved in this sport for almost 2 years, I realized that they may have been jaded. In this sport see new recruits stop before they stop and it irritates some people more than others! To them I was freshmeat and didn't know nothin bout playin no derby! Anyway- I moved, joined a new team in a more diverse area and my race didn't seem like it was a problem. I'm now on a team with only 1 other minority and I kind of forced myself into the group during my first practice . I love this sport and I have other things to focus on besides my skin color."
"I realized once I started traveling as a referee that I rarely saw other refs that looked like me. I only know of 3, maybe 4 others and only one of them is a woman as well.
It doesn't bother me because I am well used to being the "token" in a group, and being the only different looking one isn't going to stop me from doing what I love to do. However, that will deter others. For example, there is a league (I decided it would be best to omit where because it will be very easy to figure out, thanks) where there are only white skaters. My cousin is athletic and and excellent skater, but will not attempt to join the league because she doesn't want to be the only black one there. What's sad is that she didn't even know about the league until I told her--I don't even live in the same state!!
|Photo found here|
How can we change this? From the derby side we can only do so much. Skaters and Officials of color need to realize that they are derby ambassadors and must reach out to show that Roller Derby is for everyone and to encourage others to step outside of this racially divided box and just enjoy a kick ass sport. It is up to the individuals to become open minded and look past the color of each other's skin."
Shorty DuWop, Referee, River City Roller Girls Richmond, VA
"I started in 2008. Beyonslay was blowing people up on the track and I encountered people who figured any black skater was a potential Beyonslay. It was meant as a compliment, but I'm a separate person, let me make my own way. There were some positives. I have a lot of trouble talking to new people, but I automatically had the shared experience of being the only or one of a few in a league. I actually used that to break the ice with a complete stranger at my first Rollercon in 2009. I was in an elevator with a skater from Bay Area. She looked cool and intimidating in her awesome satin jacket and wanted to do better than squeaking out "Hi." I thought about it and settled on, "Are you the only one in your league, or are there others?" She turned around, smiling and warm and said, "I'm the only one!" We chatted for a bit and agreed to keep in touch. It was a pretty cool experience!"