Ultimate Diversity Note by Saamir Baker

“The call was none of your concern”

“It was if it was my teammate and I had best perspective”

“Young boul it was none of your concern”

Another tournament, another day of being undermined and disrespected. As the captain of the most diverse team in the tri-state area, I take pride in being a team that trail-blazes in racial diversity. But certain conversations just happen to be another case of being disrespected by another white suburban kid who found it appropriate to call the black boy a young boul. Someone who doesn’t understand that where I come from it’s disrespectful, but used it because he thought it would be cool to call the black kid a “young boul”. Just another micro-aggression I’ve experienced on the field.

The thing that I find the most interesting about ultimate is that whenever I or my teammates of color see another person of color with another team we get excited. Being a minority in the ultimate community is something of a novelty at times. When you never see anyone who looks like you when you’re playing another team I feel like I don’t belong however when I do it makes me excited. As if you and that player are changing the world by looking alike and playing the same sport. You find a sense of pride to see them and want them to succeed more so people will see that you do know your calls. Instead of being asked, “Have you ever read the rulebook before?”. And so people realize that not only is ultimate a sport but a sport for everyone. Instead of being told it’s something that white boys play on the shore with their dog or when they’re bored.

 

“Wow, your team is so athletic!”

Is a term that my coach hears more than often whenever we play. Even if we had lost 15-8, a compliment that no other team usually ever receives. When conversations that don’t need to be had within that no other teams need to have with our coach “It’s a conversation we’ve had over the years on our team – how do we deal with the intended and unintended racist behavior we face when we play. It’s not easy to be called “thug” by a white coach and then wonder why it seems that every time you make a defensive play, a foul gets called.” Because we were confused that teams always called a foul on the slightest touch or tap.

From the summer of freshman year when I played Nike ultimate camp, I always thought it was weird that nobody wanted to sit or be with us when I and my teammates came our first day. I figured it was because nobody knew me, but then slowly I came to realize that all of the white kids seemed to instantly click while I and my teammates were on the outskirts. Slowly my fellow campers grew to talk to us and enjoy our company but it always seemed to be in a manner that wasn’t sincere.

I wonder what it would take to change the ultimate community to make people of color more comfortable with the sport. As Chris Lehmann best put it, “It will require us as a community to really examine some of the more subtle ways we act because many of the problems are on the level of micro-aggressions committed by people who would never consider themselves racist in any way. And it will require us to be deliberate in our actions if we want our sport to look more the world in which we live.” but there needs to be more than that. I know that as human beings there will never be complete unbiased opinions, but we need to look at do we make our colored peers uncomfortable. Even if you feel as though you are an ambassador to racial diversity, analyze your treatment of a person of color. Don’t treat us any differently or special, we just have a love of the game like everyone else and want to be treated the same. Respectfully, fairly, and most importantly as a human.

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