Alan Maloney is a garbage human. I really could just stop the piece there, but I will elaborate. In 2016, he got into an altercation with another ref and called him the n-word. Maloney was forced to undergo some sensitivity training but was not suspended. Perhaps he should have been.
Fast forward to 2018. During a wrestling match, he told a young black wrestler, Andrew Johnson, that he either had to cut off his locks or forfeit the match. Apparently, this young man’s hair was somehow an advantage even though it was being tucked and covered as per wrestling regulations. After some protests from the coaches, ultimately Johnson decided to cut his hair and went on to win the match, but likely at the sacrifice of his spirit.
Black hair is constantly the subject of discrimination and racist policies due to a willful lack of understanding and intolerance. Black hair makes some schools send little black girls home for wearing braids because it’s “not part of the uniform”; and in corporate America they will turn down an overly qualified black woman for a major position because of her afro; and in a gymnasium, where athletes should be judged by their abilities and prowess, they are instead shamed and sheared because a white man went on a power trip because he thinks that he can.
Why did this child have to decide between his hair—which wasn’t even an issue in the first place—or his team? There are a few issues I have with what went on here. First, as a coach, you are an adult. Your job is to protect your players. The coach failed epically in this regard. Maloney’s clearly racist decision should have implored you as the coach to take your team and go. There is no way I would have allowed this child to be assaulted in this manner. Second, people have hailed Andrew Johnson as a team player for “making this sacrifice so his team could win”; and perhaps in some way, his sacrifice will be rewarded, but his teammates get an “F” for character. Just as Johnson yielded to the pressure of a racist call, his teammates had the opportunity to shield Johnson from it, but in this case, winning was more important than the integrity or humiliation of one of their own. A true team would have stood up to a racist ref and walked out of the match.
Andrew Johnson went on to win—but one look at his face you could see that it was a hollow victory. Victories that are hard-fought and rightly earned are often filled with pride. No doubt, Johnson would have likely won anyway, deservedly so if he focused and trained hard. Yet one look at his face, the lack of effort to have his arm raised, the subtle recoil from Maloney, will tell you that this win was with an absence of pride because he was subjected to a racist humiliation prior to his win. How many more pieces of ourselves do black people have to sacrifice for the greater good of others? You might be thinking that I’m making a much bigger deal about this than is necessary, but it is those very tiny seemingly insignificant pokes of racism that hang on like barnacles to the underbelly of white supremacy that doesn’t allow racism to be vanquished in the first place.
Afro Bo Peep is a teacher and occasional activist/poet. Once in a while, she has opinions she will share with her cat, but the really strong ones, you can find here.