On June 26, I posted an Instagram story detailing racism I experienced on Oberlin’s women and trans Ultimate Frisbee team, the Preying Manti. I spoke about racist comments made by teammates and about the lack of support for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color on the team. My post started with the following:
“I’ve been on the Manti for 2 seasons now and in just those 2 seasons, I have experienced racism from multiple teammates on multiple occasions. In a lot of these instances, other teammates were present. Their silence was deafening. I would wait and wait for someone to say something but that never came.”
The aggressions didn’t just come from white teammates; non-Black POC were also perpetrators. Other teammates chose to stay silent when they witnessed harm directed toward me, which made them equally as harmful as the instigators. Their choice to be complicit is what pushed me to call out my own team.
I chose to make the post because of the changes I was seeing in the world from the Black Lives Matter movement. I felt like, for once, my voice would be heard. I followed my initial post with seven more Instagram stories detailing my experiences. I also reposted resources my teammates could use to start a conversation about racism.
Prior to this Instagram story, I used the team’s resources — we have Safety Coordinator positions to handle team conflict — to discuss a problematic teammate. I even detailed the extent of this person’s racist comments. And still, nothing changed. I then reached out to multiple Manti captains to talk about how this teammate made me feel. Again, no action was taken.
Later, I learned that this same teammate had made anti-Black statements directed at another member — an instance that was also ignored by the current leadership. It is inaction like this that gives harmful individuals permission to continue inflicting harm. Reflecting on this complicit behavior of leaders, whose role is to foster a safe environment, is what motivated me to make my series of posts. Everyone, especially our leaders, needs to be held accountable.
Following the Manti’s May elections, the response from the new team leaders was very positive. They were receptive to working with me on action items like creating policies to address racism on our team and mandating anti-racism workshops for all teammates.
Despite their support, I have still had to take on a lot of labor in other ways. I have had to respond to criticism from teammates and alumni. Defending my actions and having to remember all of the harm that was inflicted upon me to give folks concrete examples is emotionally draining. On the other hand, some teammates apologized and acknowledged their mistakes.
What surprised me the most were responses from other BIPOC Oberlin students who had their own stories about negative interactions with the Manti without even being on the team. While these stories validated my feelings, it still saddened me to hear that a team I was a proud member of had caused so much harm.
I knew that joining the Manti meant entering a predominantly white space on an already predominantly white campus. What I didn’t anticipate was having to sideline my identity for the sake of catching a disc. I am a Queer, mixed Black, East Asian, and South Asian woman. However, the only identities that were acknowledged by teammates were my gender and sexual identities. The team was very open to and accepting of conversations relating to Queer identities and genders. One of the first things I learned when I joined the team is that all of our cheers are gender-neutral to make sure everyone is included. The Manti have the capacity and resources to have crucial conversations about identity.
Being a part of the Manti means joining a family. Our culture is really unique, but it can be very intense. We spend countless hours together at late-night practices, tournaments, and our legendary parties. We love each other and support each other in and out of team spaces. I want to see that same commitment and care when having conversations about anti-Blackness and racism. These discussions need to happen for BIPOC to feel like a part of the team and for their white counterparts to have the language and tools to build meaningful relationships with BIPOC teammates.
This team hurt me. So much. It let me down in multiple ways. All I wanted to do was play my favorite sport with a group of people I thought I could call my family. But the team prioritizes winning a national championship over caring about its Black members. Our community values athleticism over addressing our racism.
There are multiple instances where I wanted to challenge the prejudices my teammates hold, but I feared that my voice as a Black team member would be disregarded and my experiences dismissed as an unpopular opinion. The Ultimate community, specifically college teams, are now taking this time to reflect and change their actions. Now is a time to celebrate Black excellence and uplift Black voices, including my own.