You’re a high-school competition swimmer. You’re wearing a regulation swimsuit approved by the school. A parent of someone else on your team takes pictures of you swimming — without asking you — and circulates them via email, to make the point that you are somehow immoral for showing off your butt cheeks. How can this happen?
Of course, it can happen if you’re a girl of color, in this case “mixed race and ‘curvy.'”
Anne Branigin, writing at the Root, reports on the story — which, for once, has a just and fair ending.
… the Dimond High School student—one of the top swimmers in the area—had decisively won her 100-yard freestyle event last Friday before an official alerted her she had been disqualified for breaking a modesty rule.
The referee told the Anchorage Daily News the female official who made the call said the teen’s suit “so far up I could see butt cheek touching butt cheek.’’
In other words, the teen had a wedgie—which is a pretty standard occurrence for any athlete in any sport when their uniform doesn’t allow them to have full coverage.
The good news:
The Alaska School Activities Association (ASAA) overturned the swimmer’s disqualification late Tuesday night, saying the referee’s ruling was invalid because the official “did not notify the coach prior to disqualifying the student,” USA Today reports.
All team and individual points were restored to the teen swimmer, as well as the Dimond High School swim team.
The Anchorage School District says it intends to decertify the referee who made the call against the swimmer, telling the Anchorage Daily News, “we cannot tolerate discrimination of any kind, and certainly not based on body shape.”
The best part of this story is that the referee is being decertified; consequences for racist actions are mighty thin on the ground. The worst part is that this kind of thing happens every single day. Here’s Branigin again:
The policing of black women’s bodies is as old as the republic, and one that has been codified in myriad ways. Among the most routine is dress code violations—under which this swimsuit debacle falls—which disproportionately penalize and humiliate black girls.
One recent study found that black girls are five times more likely than their white counterparts to be suspended for dress code violations. Another report based out of Washington D.C. found this was particularly true for darker-skinned and curvy girls.
The effects on these girls are multiple: the disciplinary action becomes a form of public shaming of their bodies. The people leering at them or evaluating them aren’t the problem—they are.
Absolutely the only way out of this morass is ensuring that white people pay — in money, in jobs, in standing, in whatever coin — for racist actions. The story is horrible, and the Alaska School Activities Association’s response is — at least slightly — encouraging.