First, and foremost, before I am writer or woman, I am Black.
This story took me to Mama Bear rage. It took 24 hours to calm down enough to focus in order to write.
Andrew Johnson is a Black high school student who has dreadlocks. He was in a wrestling match and was told by the referee (who was accused of making racial comments to another Black official) to cut his dreadlocks because they were too long. Alan Maloney (the ref) told him he has to cut them or forfeit the match!
He cut them. He won the match. And looked devastated after. See the video from Now This by clicking here.
See the tweet from Jamil Smith:
Now that Jamil has set the stage for this, let me break down why this has nothing and everything to do with his hair.
1.) White Supremacy fueled by racism seeks to control and subdue. I am sure when Andrew started growing his dreadlocks, he was aware on how long they should be. I’m sure he was told how long they should be. This referee decided Andrew’s dreadlocks were too long and wanted them cut.
Translation: Who does this boy think he is? I’ll show him.
2.) Black bodies are always useful for the advantages of greater victories. What does this mean? Watch the attitude of the coach. Watch Andrew’s countenance. Watch the attitude of all the adults there. They wanted wanted to win. They needed all of Andrew’s focus and abilities to win. They needed him to ignore what was happening to him. They needed him to decide winning, competition was more important to the humiliation happening to him.
The same things that make Black men dominant and envious in areas of competition, make them targets everywhere else! The coaches let this happen to Andrew because they didn’t care, and couldn’t recognize what was happening to him. But those of us whom are Black, knew exactly what was happening to him!
The entire world saw how the world treats Black men, Black men on a daily basis. Jesse Williams said it best:
Don’t miss this. The high school Andrew attends, his coaches, the NJSIAA, just consumed a portion of this young man, only to throw what they didn’t need-what wouldn’t conform–away.
The purpose of a Rorschach test is to assess your personality by what it is you see. If you don’t see this situation as racist; as abusive; and humiliating; then perhaps you’re racist.
3.) Of all the adults in the room, of all that may identify themselves as allies and coaches, they all failed him. The story does not tell where Andrew’s parents are. But I would be in jail. I would be on the news. There is no way that this would happen to my child and I be rendered helpless. The thing about this is there were chances to stop this from happening to him!
And no one did. It’s not acceptable to help Black boys, you know.
No one stood up for him. No one told the referee that he wasn’t going to do this to him. No other teammate stood up for him. The TEAM that needed his gifts, talents and abilities couldn’t stand up for him. This is how oppression works and is rooted! His coach slapped his arm, trying to get him to focus so he could win, rather than stepping in being an adult concerned about the welfare of a child. The concern was the win. Not how Andrew would feel after.
This is a microaggression.
4.) The trauma of this event cannot be overstated. Black children endure this type of abuse, these type of mircoagressions on a daily basis! From how they wear their hair (from color, cut and style), personal style and accessories, they are asked to conform. The microaggessions, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, are what Black people have to negotiate on a daily basis.
Systematic racism will tell Black children to conform. Their hair has to conform. It can’t be a distraction. Coded language for it can’t make anyone feel intimidated because their hair can’t do anything similar.
Institutional racism will make all punishments and consequences severe when they do not conform or choose to fight. This same concept will tell those that want to help resist this treatment, that their privilege is more important to protect and value than anything else. That’s why the coach was able to slap his arm and no one else move.
There has to be accountability beyond the referee under investigation. Beyond the coach being talked to. Beyond suing the district. This cannot stand. This ain’t alright. And him winning in spite of, is what Black men have to on a daily basis.
[images from author’s social media]