The world is gearing up for the 2020 (well, 2021) Tokyo Olympics, but there has been a wave of penalizations and severe criticism against Black women athletes in recent days. Namely, the International Swimming Federation (FINA) recently refused to approve the use of a swimming cap designed to accommodate natural Black hair during international competitions, and US hammer thrower Gwen Berry was criticized for protesting during the playing of the national anthem. On top of that, two Namibian black sprinters were ruled ineligible to compete at the Tokyo Olympics due to naturally high testosterone levels.
CNN reports that experts point out to these incidents as an evidence that Black women and girls experience dehumanization – even in top sports levels.
According to Lori L. Martin, a sociology professor at Louisiana State University and an expert in race and education through a sports lens, many procedures and policies associated with sporting events are seen as ‘race-neutral’, but they often impact people differently based on their race and gender.
— ColorOfChange (@ColorOfChange) July 2, 2021
Sha’Carri Richardson. Caster Semenya. Now Brianna McNeal, the 2016 Olympic champ in the 100m hurdles, was banned for FIVE YEARS because she missed a doping test two days after she had an abortion. The policing of Black female athletes’ bodies is abhorrent. https://t.co/O7NAGrZ7Gx
— Lauren Rankin (@laurenarankin) July 2, 2021
Martin states that such policies show that society’s ideas about womanhood and women in sports often exclude groups of people, and she notes that there’s a need for more Black individuals (and Black women) in sports leadership.
“We tend to center whiteness. We don’t necessarily think about how the rules that we might implement impact other groups because we’re thinking about whiteness and White people being the norm,” – she concluded.