It’s been a rough and illuminating few weeks. As we mourn the unjust deaths of countless Black people at the hands of police, multiple individuals, businesses, and organizations have shown where they stand in the fight against racism. Many people have recently realized that they have a lot to learn and systems to change. The derby world, for the most part, seems willing to finally heed the call to action from its BIPOC members to examine how our sport upholds white supremacy.
To WFTDA leadership, we appreciate the actions you are taking (enumerated in your latest anti-racism update). We hope that these measures will be effective and will benefit the organization as a whole. We still ask that you be mindful of how to use your platform as efficiently and impactfully as possible by directly addressing the concerns of BIPOC members rather than talking publicly about how hard ‘the work’ will be. WFTDA leadership must also take action to address problems at the individual league level. For too long, member leagues have been left to address racism on their own, but for some leagues it is extremely difficult to adequately address this issue without guidance. We need you to get into the weeds with us. We need WFTDA leadership to set standards and offer specific guidance if we are to address racism (and other discrimination) in our sport.
Specifically, WFTDA should:
- Establish baseline policy standards and requirements, including recommended courses of action to address instances of racism or microaggressions (like when to educate vs remove someone from a league).
- Recommend that individual leagues establish a private reporting system through which skaters can alert league leadership to microaggressions without filing a grievance. This would allow leagues to track and address behaviors that may not seem severe enough for a formal grievance, but that create an unwelcome atmosphere for BIPOC skaters.
- Establish a similar reporting system for skaters to report racism and microaggressions in their leagues directly to WFTDA. Although a league may have its own system in place, BIPOC skaters in predominantly white leagues may not feel comfortable reporting directly to their league.
- Outline an action plan for when WFTDA identifies specific people or leagues with multiple reports or reports of significant severity. WFTDA should also offer to mediate between the skater and their league in these situations.
- Establish protocols for how to handle racism at tournaments, in addition to the officiating clarification released last year when our league highlighted racist calls by officials.
- Require bias training/education for officials certification.
- Collect and publish penalty data, including the race(s) of skaters receiving penalties, to elucidate any biases in officiating. Conduct an audit of past games to see if BIPOC skaters were penalized more heavily and determine impact on team performance and rankings. Use this data collection to determine whether cultural changes and preventative measures are successful in decreasing bias in officiating, and to introduce additional anti-bias measures if necessary.
- Offer an introductory educational curriculum for new league members as well as resources to educate those who commit microaggressions after joining the league.
Some of the above suggestions may already be on your list of action items to be revealed on July 11. If not, we are happy to discuss these ideas, such as the reporting system, and others in more detail. However, we know that our collective anti-racism goals can only be accomplished if individual leagues are equally engaged in dismantling power structures. For leagues asking where to start—the good news is there are lots of places to start. Recruitment is not the only answer, nor should it be your first step. Take the time to review your policies and culture before bringing new recruits into a potentially harmful environment. The silver lining of forced quarantine is having more time to get your house in order before you go out to recruit new league members. Make no mistake, Atlanta Roller Derby is also navigating the ways that our league can be more equitable. We don’t have all the answers, but here are some questions to consider:
- Do you have a safe/anonymous system that allows people to report microaggressions they experience? Do people utilize it? Microaggressions are almost certainly happening in your league, so if no one uses the system, it likely needs revisiting.
- Does your code of conduct address microaggressions? Racism? Other forms of discrimination?
- Do you have any policy against offensive derby names?
- When it comes to your attention that someone in your league is racist or making others uncomfortable, how is that handled?
- Do you track data on how your league members self-identify? Do you know your league’s demographics? Do you have enough data to audit past membership?
- Is there a trend in who is able to meet your league membership requirements? Is it possible that your requirements have a built-in bias?
- Do your league policies inadvertently favor wealthier members? For example, are members able to pay their way out of league obligations like committee jobs or PR? Are there financial penalties for not meeting league requirements? Are your attendance policies too hard to meet for those with difficult work schedules?
- Does your league have a dues hardship/exemption plan? What about for other league requirements? Do you have a gear lending library?
- Does your league have a diversity and inclusion committee? Is it an insular committee or is the whole league included in conversations and efforts?
- Can your league afford to pay an anti-racism educator to educate your membership? Or pay someone to review your league policies?
- How do you fund your travel teams? Does it exclude skaters who cannot afford travel, who would otherwise skate on your charter based on skill?
- Are your skaters expected to purchase their own jerseys? Are the jerseys you use affordable?
- Are your policies preventative in maintaining a safe space, rather than reactive?
- When people leave your league, do you know why?
- If your league has BIPOC are they represented in team/league leadership roles?
- When one of your BIPOC league members does something for D&I that improves your league or benefits your league publicly, do you credit them (even when it’s part of their league job)?
- Do your league trainers use culturally insensitive terms to refer to certain skating skills (ex: mohawk stops)?
- Do you prioritize being eco-friendly and sustainable? Do you limit single-use plastics at your events? Do you know what environmental racism is?
- How seriously does your league/team take racism? Are you willing to forfeit a game if one of your skaters is being targeted by microaggressions/racism?
- Do your BIPOC skaters get called on more penalties than your white skaters? Does the metric for impact appear tighter for them? Do your officials undergo any kind of bias training?
- Have BIPOC tried to educate your league on these issues before? How were they met? Has there been any lasting action? Should you extend apologies to current members or retirees?
- Is it primarily BIPOC in your league who are pushing to improve diversity and inclusion? Are your league members quick to be vocal about other issues (like LGBTQIA+ issues) but not about racism?
- Do you rely on your BIPOC members to provide the answers to issues of diversity? Do you rely on them to do “the work” without acknowledgement or compensation from the league?
- How can you make this kind of examination and education a part of your league culture, rather than a short-term response to current events?
- Do you cross-check religious and cultural holiday dates before booking games?
- Does your league play the national anthem at games? Do you discourage people from kneeling? How do you respond to those who express anger about kneeling?
- Where do you host your after parties and recruitment events? Is the atmosphere welcoming to BIPOC?
- What kind of music do you play at your games? What kind of half-time acts do you have? Do these have a specific audience?
- Are your game-day vendors representative of your city?
- Do you do a land acknowledgment at your games? On your website?
- Do your announcers undergo any kind of cultural competency training?
- Are your medics vetted for bias?
- If a skater is injured at practice or in a game, do you know if they can afford an ambulance? What is your plan if they can’t?
- Do you have a plan in place to address in-game instances of racism at games you host?
- Do you have police present at your games? Are your BIPOC members comfortable with it?
- If you host tournaments, do you have a system in place for participating teams to report racism/microaggressions? How do you handle it?
- Do you hold your fans to a code of conduct to promote a safe space for BIPOC? Are fans allowed to wear racist imagery (confederate flags, maga hats, swastikas, etc.)?
- Are the locations where you host practices and games easily accessible via public transportation?
- Is your league branding racially or culturally insensitive? Are all your league and team logos white women? Are you clinging to the “white pinup” or “white punk rocker” derby template?
- Does your marketing use only images of white skaters? Conversely, do you tokenize BIPOC members or exploit them for the sake of appearing diverse?
- Look at your league’s sponsors. Are they all white-owned businesses? If you reach out to BIPOC-owned businesses, are you asking for more than you’re giving? Have you considered sponsorship service trades instead of asking for money?
- Do the companies from whom you order merch provide fair wages and safe working conditions for their employees?
- Have you had fans respond negatively to your league using its platform in support of Black Lives Matter? How has your league responded to this? This is also part of using your platform.
- What kinds of events does your league attend for PR or outreach? What is the demographic of people at these events? Which communities are you connecting with?
- If you have an associated junior league, are its members representative of your city’s demographics? Would your junior league similarly benefit from such an examination? (Likely yes.)
In addition to considering and acting on these questions (the WFTDA Code of Conduct Toolkit includes some exercises for this), we ask that you support and follow groups like Black Diaspora Roller Derby (Venmo: @Black-Diaspora, PayPal: firstname.lastname@example.org), Team Indigenous Roller Derby, BIPOCwhoskate, and the League of Accomplices. We are happy to talk to other leagues to share ideas. Please email email@example.com if you would like to get in contact.
On behalf of Atlanta Roller Derby
Specific contributors: Ana Cheng (Jaramillo), Erykah Ba-doozie, Lady Skatepants, Gucci Maim, Cancer Candy, Tongue N Cheeks, Nips of Fury, Baller Shot Caller, Ponderosa Pain, Human Missile Crisis, and AbracaJabYa
Donate to bail funds for BLM protestors here.
Donate to the West River bail fund for Lakota land defenders who were arrested protecting the Black Hills here.
Donate to the Black Trans Protestors Emergency Fund here.
Donate to the Black Trans Lives Matter Youth Fund here.
Find more resources (petitions, places to donate, education resources) here, here, and here.