Monday, November 18, 2013

Why is Derby so White? No, Seriously, I Want to Know.

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
her first impression of roller derby.  Her friend had asked her to join derby, and her response was "Derby? Isn't that the crazy shit white people do?" It was funny, but it started me thinking about race in roller derby. Even at the Play offs, I looked around and noticed almost all of the teams were predominantly white.  How did this happen?  Roller skating isn't an exclusive hobby for white people, so why were most of the team out there manned by white women? Of course, I can't just keep my thoughts to myself, so I started bothering friends of mine to help me answer that question. I am lucky enough to know Paris Kills from the River City Rollergirls team which is located so close to Raleigh, that we travel back and forth to scrimmage each other for practice.  I asked Paris to weigh in on this idea, and then I put it up on Facebook for others to contribute as well.  Below are the responses.


"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 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?

Even if your team only has one minority skater, it’s important for her to go out and be seen when you have a big event.  If minorities don't see that there are others on the team like them, they are less likely to want to be involved or will shoe horn the sport as something "crazy white girls do." It’s hard being the only one (aka the Token.) If minorities see that they aren’t the only one, they feel more welcomed and willing to participate. Most people don’t understand that feeling, however as a child I was not only a military brat having to pick up and leave and readjust to a new area every two years, 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, tournaments, and print ads we can actually increase the amount of minorities coming into the sport. "
Paris Kills

"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."
Bomb Gnarly

"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
"Unfortunately, I think a lack of minorities is what keeps minorities away. when I told my mom I was playing she said "do we play roller derby?" I am the only minority on my team and many times the only one on the track. When we traveled to Alabama last year,  I experienced racism like never before from players and fans. Sometimes it makes for a lonely team sport. Once, when our league discussed bus advertising, someone said " That's not our demographic." This makes me wonder who is our demographic? I don't think our culture excludes minorities, but it may not draw them in either. From a personal note, I would love to see a roller girl image that doesn't have European features. Unless they are live and in person, roller girls don't look like me."  
Do U Juana 
"Hello- I am a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.  (Smoky Mtn Rollergirls based in
Photo by I-Lie Kit Ruff
Bryson City, NC) has several tribal members from my tribe and others. I have tried hard to find other Native Americans in this sport- and this is why Navajo superstar Mick Swagger is one of my heroes. I have joked with her about having an all-native team, and how scary that would be lol. I even recommended to Nike N7 that she be an ambassador to represent female Native athletes and they said "Nike does not support roller derby". Maybe we don't want to be represented by Nike anyways. 

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."
Sesamean Streak

"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."
Georgia Scorch'er 

"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
I believe that most minorities look at Roller Derby as a "White People Sport"--why is that, well it's the same reason that tennis and golf was classified as that before The Williams sisters and Tiger Woods, there aren't many that really shine and are well known throughout the entire derby community. Even now the only black derby skater that is considered "famous" is Quadzilla---where is a female equivalent? I know there has to be one, because I have met many skaters of different ethnicities who are amazing.

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!"


  1. Awesome post! Reading this made me realize just how diverse our league has become. I hope that's a trend that continues not just in our own little area of the world but in derby everywhere. I feel like a lot of sports started out as predominantly white and eventually become more mixed, so I hope this is only a product of derby still being in its infancy as a sport.

  2. I noted and commented on that when i wrote about derby in an essay when I started out, way back when. Concluded as well that promotion and word of mouth are the biggest reasons the demographic of the league and its fans are they way it is. Using my league as example, Montreal is about half if not more queer, making it an exception in the derby word where majority hetero is the norm for a league, which I believed happened because a group of queer women became founding members and founding the second home team, in turn games happen in a region of the city with many queer women live work and hang out. From there, is easy to promote to that particular community and in turn attract skaters from that community, hence our present demographic, which shows with our charter team. Yet mainly white still. :/ Anyway, good article! :)

  3. If you look at our games in the 60's and early seventies, you will see on average between 30 and 40 percent of our players were minority: black, latino, Samoan, and Hawaiian. I asked one of the minority skaters why there were not more today and, please understand that no one person speaks for a whole group, her opinion was that particularly black athletes look to games where there is a chance of being paid, and also the cost of the equipment, skates, and dues is difficult for minorities.

    Our telecasts brought in trainees; most of our athletes had never skated before. I truly believe if there were focused programs on the communities that do not seem to be part of Derby, it would make a huge difference. Also, it would help to reshape and increase the makeup of the audience if the different ethnicities were participating.

    1. Funny- When I began writing my input on this particular topic, I was going to mention the fact that black athletes tend to gravitate towards sports that will provide a livelihood. My family sees this sport as only a hobby for me, while I consider it a lifestyle :) They don't come to events and they don't ask about it because it's "just some weird thing that Brittany's doing". I do have to disagree with one part-- There isn't an issue paying for the equipment necessary to play this sport, however, it's viewed as silly to be investing so much in something that doesn't put the money back in your pocket.
      Man..why couldn't I get all of this out yesterday? lol

      -Georgia Scorch'er

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  5. My immediate thoughts on this. Also, having been a skater with Detroit for 5 years.

    My humble opinions on it:

    - I do not want to be responsible for reaching out to minority communities to bring in more minority skaters because I am a black roller derby skater. I am not Al Sharpton of roller derby. WE figure this out.

    -I am actually insulted that the chicks with blue hair could not pull in minorities considering my hair has been various colors over the years. It may be cultural. As black and involved, we talk among ourselves and have alot in common as far as backgrounds in "alternative" scenes. I have always been a minority in those scenes too. Count how many blacks are at a punk show. That's why "Afro Punk" is a thing. What "minorities" culturally are you asking about? Are we asking to "shuck and jive" in urban areas? No I am not capable. I am myself and can be myself anywhere. Is it okay that I like Mastodon as much as Kendrick Lamar? If being me can help another minority be interested, cool.

    - We are still in a place convincing the world roller derby is just not fishnets and elbows. You know, "cray shit white people do". We have not even convinced white people that is not true. Minority women are not generally encouraged to be athletic, like science. So as we move towards proving the sport is, is it a double edged sword?

    -Going to open skates with a primary minority crowd , I have seen skaters who could run circles (literally) around atleast 80% of current skaters. I do attract alot of other minorities with my tattoos and previous face dermals because that has become more "hood cool". The convo always turns to roller derby. Still not my job more than any other skater.

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    1. Well said. Mentioning white privilege attitudes to even make this an issue is what leaves me in awe.

  7. There is also these lovely young in Detroit getting off their feet and right now mainly do scrimmages with surrounding established junior leagues or mix into their teams to bout.

  8. This is an interesting debate, but I'm conflicted in my reactions to it. I've been in other sports where the same charge was leveled (rowing). I live in Canada, so people say the same about hockey. I wonder at the politicizing of the colour content of a league membership? And why would it be incumbent on the possible lone minority to do the outreach to other minorities? In doing outreach, isn't the point to find interested and keen parties, regardless of race, who want to try out the sport? Why has the language reverted to 'recruiting' instead of 'inviting'? This isn't a political rally, this is a sport. I understand the need to be seen as inclusive and welcoming to all, but I believe the community is already those things. As we market the sport and develop as a brand and a legitimate sport, these characteristics which I love about derby will be spread and more people will naturally gravitate to it. There are a number of legitimate reasons, a lot mentioned in the quotes above, why some people haven't taken up derby. I believe the fringe factor and the fact it hasn't become mainstream yet is definitely at play at why, not just minorities, but the general population hasn't taken up the sport either as a player or a fan. I live in Toronto and have done some PR for my league, and I can tell you it is very difficult to get media attention for a bout. Furthermore, as someone with a full time job, what feels like a full time volunteer commitment, as well as fitting in as much skate time and practice as I can, I wonder where these extra hours to do outreach are going to come from? Just MHO.

  9. WOW now everyone on here is stereo typing every other race....

  10. I have, and I've responded with my comments. Yours is a blanket statement and I'm not sure what exactly you are implying. Can you elaborate?

    1. i just dont appreciate being called a rich white girl is all...but apparently all of us that play roller derby are....

    2. I see your point; however, I don't think anyone is trying to point fingers at anyone. It's just a discussion. What is your take on this blog post - besides your reaction to its comment section? I would be interested to her your perspective.

    3. I haven't gotten that hit off this discussion at all (that we're all rich white girls). Especially since I am...not rich. Not even remotely. But I think a discussion about being more inclusive, more welcoming, and more aware of our privileges is a worthwhile one. Derby should be for everyone.

      That said, of course, as some others have already mentioned, none of us can *force* diversity and none of the people of color already involved should feel like they have to be the Al Sharpton of the sport (heh). That would be...weird. But we can certainly make derby a place that, when someone from a different background does come across it, they feel just as comfortable as anyone checking it out.

  11. I dont think so either, but we need to get back to realizing our similarities instead of our differences ...I think derby is growing and there are only more 'minorites' but I think we all collectively have our own challenges when it comes to playing this sport regardless of where we are from grow up, our skin color, etc...and I think it may be true still and unfortunate that people of other races are still hesitant to want to play derby as it was mentioned in a few points above becasue there was no representation from their race, ethnicity, culture, etc....I dont think this is just a derby issue is pretty much what I'm saying ,I think there are some sports more dominated by minorities then others but I hate the word minority - i prefer to see people as people, I do not like the focus on separation, and i think until all people come together and push themselves to learn and do something different with other people, cultures, etc....then nothing changes....

    1. Talking about judging people as 'people' and not as a 'minority' sounds good, but I've found that it is generally used only by reasonably privileged (and by privileged I do not mean rich, look up white privilege if you don't already know what that is) white people.

      Racism exists, different cultural norms exist, and trying to pretend that they don't actually has been shown to isolate people who are considered minorities even more - because you are telling them that their experiences as a person of colour/queer/disabled don't matter because "we're all people". Even though those things DO matter, they contribute to who we are and how we interact with the world.

      Yes, stereotyping is negative. But you can't just ignore the fact that things are different for people that the world (or rather, America and to a lesser extent the UK) deem to be/treat as 'minorities'. Also: you cannot be racist to white people. Like, you can say mean things about/hate white people but that? That is not going to exactly cause a problem for white people in general. We are still considered "the norm", even by parts of the world where WE are the minorities. White people have fucked up the world's perception of "normal" and "majority", and that constantly makes your life as a white person easier.

      Sorry, that ended up in a bit of a white privilege rant. But I think it's important that we recognise that this kind of attitude is part of the problem we face when trying to open ourselves up to people who might feel excluded on grounds of race, disability, etc.

    2. I agree so hard. Sure, the idea of a color-blind society sounds lovely, but we're not there. Not even close. Appreciation of similarities among different people is fine (and I understand it comes from good intentions), but it's crucial to acknowledge the differences, especially when one group of people lacks the power, voice, and privilege that another holds. Being "color-blind" is the same as being wilfully ignorant because there is a refusal to acknowledge the power dynamics.

  12. This is a GOOD topic.

    Something we were asking ourselves within UKRDA last year was "what are leagues doing to ensure they are reaching out and represent their local communities". There are VERY FEW minority skaters in the UK. A lot of leagues have absolutely no idea what the ethnic make-up of their local area is.
    Where I'm originally from, it wouldn't have made a great deal of sense to reach out to minorities, because I lived in a small town that is 98% white (although around 10% of that is non-British, who weren't represented). However London, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Cardiff....those cities are, for example, significantly more diverse than my local area. In fact North London, which borders my local area, switches to an 80% non-white population.

    I would LOVE to see leagues considering how they can represent their communities more. This isn't about meeting quotas or actively seeking out ethnic minority skaters, it's about forging a strong and lasting relationship within your community, developing your league and fans, funding, crowds that will help you grow.

    I actually commented last night when I was watching the Champs archives that there were two afro-american skaters on track at once from the same team. And on pondering, it made me rather sad that it was so unusual I'd noticed it.

    1. It's interesting for me to see comments from the US because racism & "the racial issue" seems to be so very different in the States compared to the UK.

      Phoenix x

    2. Absolutely, and I write from a US-centric point of view. I'd love to travel more and see what other leagues from other countries deal with. Need. More. Money.

    3. This is on point and the regarding comments. I am a military brat and lived overseas until I was 14. Though educated on it, I didn't even encounter these issues of segregation in any form until I moved to the states.

    4. London Rockin' Rollers (my league) does represent pretty much all minorities and, though I've only been playing three years, seems to be the most ethnically diverse league in the UK.
      If we are to talk about the specifics of why there aren't more black women playing the sport we have to go into why there is a paucity of black women playing ANY sport at all which I was guilty enough of myself until 3 years ago.
      Myself and other ethnic minority skaters have repped for the league, just because we are active league members, not to draw minorities and I was welcomed by my league not because or despite of my ethnicity but because I wanted to learn to skate.

  13. Thanks so much for the blog and opening a discussion on this subject E. I can remember being one of a handful of black derby skaters at tournaments, sometimes being the only one at away bouts, and wondering why aren't more people of color in the sport. I don't speak for the majority, but I do what I can to play the sport I love. Yes, I work 2 jobs. Yes, I'm a sweaty mess after practices. But I know that I'm lucky, blessed even to be involved. Everyone is going to have a different story, reason for being involved or not. Some of us (I'm speaking about derby as a whole) have found life long friendships that I don't know what I did before or what I did to deserve such amazing people in my life. Point blank, if you don't know about it you can't be involved. And I don't think it's any one person's job to get certain people in or keep certain people out. Derby as a whole should be looking for people to grow our sport that love it, challenge it, improve it. Thanks again Friend.

  14. I have to agree that it is always beneficial to widen one's audience, to attempt to reflect the community we live in; yet for me that is always going to be an organic shift not one that is pursued for the sake of appearances. While I know it is not a superficial goal or that some leagues are looking to fill a quota, but what I am interpreting from the comments made, is that it is something much bigger than derby - it’s social change that requires social and political action by all. And to lay all these politics at the foot of a burgeoning sport, or a small community league that struggles for space to practice in for instance, in addition to all the other aspects of running a league by and for the players, where everyone is a volunteer, where there is little or no sponsorship to pay for recruitment or training, where time and money is already an issue for so many, IMHO it is perhaps a bit premature to level accusations across the board that derby isn’t doing what it can to be proactive in this area. While it is indeed necessary to be cognizant to be inclusive and reduce any and all discrimination or outward appearances thereof, and to strive to indeed widen our audience, bring in new players that reflect our entire community, to grow the sport - it is, as always, up to individuals to speak up, to have a say on committees, “to be the change you want to see in the world”.

  15. I used to play for two leagues before (now i only play for one) and I'm still the only Latina on the league. I was born and raised in Mexico and my first language is Spanish .Its been hard for me to identify with most of the people because of the language barrier, I still have a heavy accent.
    I do feel like I am accepted as a player within the sport but there are times when I do still feel like an outsider. I would love to bring more people to games but many times they are not interested because they don’t feel like its a part of our culture. I wish WFTDA would put a little more spotlight and support teams from Latin America. Countries like Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Peru and Columbia amongst others. I know there are also leagues in Puerto Rico that are WFTDA apprentice but don't seem at least from my perspective to have the support that more European leagues tend to have. The reason why I bring this up is that I feel that by organizations like WFTDA casting a light on leagues in Latin American countries it may help bring in more minorities to try the sport here in the states. It would be amazing to continue supporting diversity within the sport that we all love.

    Maria Villarreal

  16. I don't want to be misunderstood, I do want derby to be reflective of our community and society and to bring as many into the sport as possible, I just think that spouting some multiculturalism and obvious 'white guilt' by some isn't going to get us there. It is welcoming the diversity of all and accepting of people's diversity, acknowledging our differences AND similarities and various backgrounds, regardless of colour, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation, religion etc etc... placing this on just a 'race' issue is myopic in my view.

  17. Talking about race seems to illuminate unconscious (or sometimes very conscious) biases. This can deter people from joining the conversation or enter the conversation with anger; however it's important to talk about race and become aware of and attempt to understand perspectives other than your own.

    One thing mentioned here is the lack of representation of minorities in derby media, which I think is very valid. Do you, white people, see advertisements/videos/movies/photos featuring all black/Asian/Hispanic/not-white people engaging in an activity and think "I should really join!"? I'm not suggesting all white people would answer one way or the other. I'm just posing a hypothetical question. I think if we saw more representation of minorities in derby media, we'd see more minorities interested in derby.

    There are lots of talented amazing skaters who SHOULD be featured. Just to name a few: Mercy and White Flight of Rose City, Onda Sligh of Oly Rollers, Queen Loseyateefa of Atlanta, belle RIGHT Hooks of B.A.D., among the other skaters mentioned here (especially the skaters of River City, because I love them so much!) and so many others who aren't mentioned.

    Another thing to notice is Elektra's statement: "I looked around and noticed almost all of the teams were predominantly white." I think most white people would express a similar statement, which draws attention to white privilege: being unaware of - unless pointed out - the lack of minorities present. I don't mean any bad on Elektra. I think it's good that she expressed this because it shows a commonality and might explain one of the reason's why you only see white women featured in derby media. Now that it's been pointed out, I hope we'll see more ethnicities represented.

    Elektra, thank you for opening up the conversation and including the valuable voices and stories of so many lovely skaters.

    [[ Bee, your comment: "I am not Al Sharpton of roller derby," oh my god, I died! You are amazing. Please keep writing things. ]]

    1. hahah that really was my very first thought.

    2. Anna Wrecksya of Boston! I woke up realizing I didn't write her name in my short list of amazing brown skaters. She is a fantastical human being and a huge asset to roller derby. I would love to see her face all over WFTDA media.

  18. I'm not a member of roller derby but I am a roller skater. I'm female, black, 6'1. While living in Long Beach CA I had my wheels replaced at a female owned skate shop (which I thought was the coolest thing ever) and the owner invited me to join/tryout for roller derby. We talked for a few minutes and she gave me a magazine on the sport and the website of the local team. I had to decline the invite due to arthritic knees. But what appealed to me was that she thought that I would be an asset to her team and she wanted to snatch me up before someone else did. That made me feel good as a person. So trust me when I say that the sport has amazing ambassadors that come in all shapes and sizes and colors. It doesn't necessarily take a person of color to reach another person of color. Being in that skate shop I experienced a sense of skate community with the other derby ladies who were hanging out and chilling at the shop. That to me was the best form of outreach without them even knowing it.

    1. If I see someone who is great on her skates, I always approach them to see if they're interested in derby. If you're amazing on skates...I WANT YOU FOR MY TEAM!!!! ;)

    2. You must have been in Estro Jen's shop!

  19. In 2011 my (only) brown teammate was less than $100 arrears in her dues. The honkey captains booted her. It was pretty fucked up and in my opinion insensitive. Plenty of other whites had previously owed with no repercussions. Plenty of whites had previously retired in good standing with balances owed to the team. When our team treasurer (white attorney with plenty of alabaster privilege) scoffed at my suggestion to start a fund, and perhaps go league-wide with the idea of raising monies in an effort to start a scholarship to keep minorities involved and not allow socio-economic barriers to dissuade people of color, she laughed at me and rolled her eyes. I rolled my eyes a year later when she was headed to Mexico to shoot her roller derby documentary in a sea of brown people, trying to make scrilla. Needless to say even in the most liberal part of the USA I was unable to rally enough support to get the fund established. White people...will it ever end? Want to make a difference? Give a brown person some top-notch gear and some insurance for a few years. Pay your athletic reparations. Maybe supporting minorities could be *shock* good for business and your rankings.
    Can you believe that at several tournaments White Flight and Mercy were mixed up?
    White people- get it together. Where I grew up skating, the brown folks were my mentors, idols, coaches and could skate circles around some of the "national level" skaters I see today.
    Diversity makes everything better!

    On a side note: Mick Swagger is a two-spirit dreamboat.

    1. I think money is an issue for a lot of skaters, regardless of ethnicity. We have several single mothers on our league, and I know derby takes a lot of their "spending" money. It's not a minority issues at heart; I think it's a economic issue.

      I understand that individuals can be ignorant, but that doesn't mean an entire race is ignorant. Pointing the finger at one race doesn't help us be more diverse as a sport. Every person you meet is different. That's why I shared many experiences on that blog, each one was unique and eye opening in its own right.

      The idea of having a fund for skaters in need is a great one that leagues should consider since nobody is getting paid in this sport and we're all in it together.

  20. Maybe you can't separate this issue from the situation in Roller Skating in the US at all. Skating of teens or young adults, or even adults in the roller rinks: There are "white" and "black" rinks.

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  22. We here in Miami have a very diverse mix too. It's mostly hispanic, with most of the hispanics being of Cuban heritage. Since Miami is a cultural melting pot, we get such a diverse mix of people interested.

  23. So yeah, not the most timely reply, but damn, I'm busy.

    I just want to point out that 2 of the 7 skaters featured as tournament logos for the 2013 WFTDA events were Asian (Kamikaze Kim and Rejected Seoul), and 1 was international (Kamikaze Kitten, UK). Onda Sligh and White Flight have both been WFTDA Skater of the month features. Also, we definitely take suggestions for the Skater of the month and all the picks are nominated by someone. Our PR/Marketing machine doesn't just sit there and pick, they look at the nominees. I don't think it's fair to say that the "derby" PR machine is only focused on the "white" skaters, it's focused on the well known skaters. I don't know what that means, other than nobody was thinking, "we need one more African-American or Hispanic skater in this list". Is that good or bad that ethnicity never entered into the discussion at the creative stages, I don't know. I will tell you though that there is definitely a dearth of minority skaters to choose from and any nomination or suggestions of folks to feature in promotions are welcome. Sometimes it literally comes down to the best photograph. ****Do you know a WFTDA skater with a dazzling derby career that should be featured on Please email and tell us why!****

    To touch on some of the other aspects of the issue, I agree with Q that economics are economics and you either have money or you don't. I haven't bought new skates in 7 years, because I can't afford them. I work on committees for my league and take leadership roles because I can earn my dues that way and don't have to come up with the $40 a month. I work hard for the WFTDA because there are perks like getting to go to the tournaments (where I work more, heh) but that's all stuff I couldn't do otherwise, despite my white privilege (I am still sadly lacking a penis though so I can't be that privileged).

    One thing I will say though is that I think the minority participants in derby need to help their leagues in this outreach. I don't have many minority friends (I mean the kind I go get drinks with on a Saturday night whom I understand intimately and can relate to the way I relate to my sister) so I feel intimidated in going out and targeting those communities. And no, not because "*enter minority euphemism here* people are scary", but because I don't know the message that will work. If, as it's said, current derby PR isn't reaching these communities, I don't know what the tactic that will work is and do you risk alienating the community you are reaching out to with the wrong message because you don't relate or aren't a part of it? Maybe that's a foolish fear, but it's there. So then the issue becomes, if you don't have (m)any minorities in your league, how do you bring them into the sport other than just the normal outreach way you use to bring in everyone else? Maybe that's part of living in one of the most segregated cities in the country (Milwaukee literally tops that list) and that's just a fact of my cultural experience, but I don't know. I'm feeling rambley now, but I know I had a conscious thought when the last of our African American skaters retired from our league and thinking that it was weird that we didn't have more minority participants considering the general population make up of our city.

    So I've run this train off the rails completely I think and I don't know quite how to wrap it up, other than to say it's been an interesting read and something I'm going to keep tucked in the back of my brain as we move into the next years round of WFTDA marketing and PR.

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