Reluctantly, Overlooked

Overlooked. I have been overlooked; for jobs, contributions to sports teams, because I am fat, or because I am a woman. I try not to overlook others. When I worked as the senior minister for two different jobs, I tried to make space for other in worship by using inclusive/expansive language. I tried to make my office a welcoming space for people to allow themselves to feel vulnerable. Even in what some would call THE leadership position of a church, I was often overlooked because I was young, or unmarried, or didn’t have kids. So yeah, I’ve been overlooked — and I’ve tried not to overlook others.

So it was a surprise to me that I was overlooking people while at a roller derby tournament in Pennsylvania, announcing for a tournament called Battle of the All-Stars. It was a great time!

One thing that many don’t know is that announcers are usually overlooked as the voice or face of the sport. But another thing other may not realize, is frequently we announcers choose MVPs.

There’s no rubric or algorithm used to choose a MVP. This weekend was no different. And also, at tournaments we keep track of who wins the MVP so that we don’t double up. This part of announcing is fun to do, but it’s also interesting. I don’t know exact numbers, but if Team Indigenous Rising, Jewish Roller Derby and Team Black Diaspora Roller Derby felt the need to make a space and team for themselves, then I’d have to say that the sport is particularly white, and privileged.

The first team I called for at Battle of the All-Stars (BOTAS) was no different, announcers chose the MVPs. But as I was watching the teams play, I watch the blockers and particular blockers who look like me, plus size, white etc.

As I was watching the blockers, I noticed that I was overlooking skaters, particularly Black skaters. I zeroed in on one skater because the skater’s body type, although not fat, was similar to mine. This skater was Black. I watched the rest of the game, zeroed in on the blockers, and this Black skater was AMAZING! The skater was making good hits, didn’t get into penalty trouble, finding ways to give assists to the jammer.

For BOTAS, the announcers chose a skater from each team to be the MVP. And it was interesting. I suggested the particular Black skater for MVP, and I got various responses. Mostly, did I think that skater did well enough to get MVP because they didn’t notice the skater. I described different situations. The other announcers agreed with me and we gave the MVP to that skater.

Game after game, I noticed my inclination to give MVPs to people who looked like me. I was horrified. Obviously I did not intend to overlook anyone. It showed me, reminded me that racism really can be passive. As passive as looking over a skater because they didn’t look like a fat, white skater.

It’s going to take a lot of time to unlearn this habit, but at least I am aware that it exists. I’m embarrassed to admit this out loud or in print. But if I’m doing this, other announcers, etc are also doing this.

We need to be more aware of micro-aggressions. It’s normal to look for people who look like you. But if we want to have a sport that is inclusive or better yet, expansive, we need to be able to notice that which makes us uncomfortable. We need to be able to talk about race, when even a sport as awesome as roller derby, has to continually work at being expansive.

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