Episode 117: Decoding Racist Representation in Sport with Kelly Wright
In this episode, Johanna is joined by repeat guest and close friend of the show, interdisciplinary scholar extraordinaire Kelly Wright. We discuss and compare the media's reactions to Angel Reese during 2023's March Madness to a white German commentator's remark about the Moroccan World Cup team's gesture last summer. After recapping for us what happened with and against Reese, Kelly shares her agreement with and expands upon Letisha Brown's excellent First and Pen analysis: how the incident exemplified the dehumanization of Black people under our white supremacy, as well as how Reese's response could not have addressed sports' anti-Blackness and misogynoir in a better way. We also refer back to Kelly's insights from her prior episode about the white gaze of sports scouts and extend it to the mainstream media landscape that spewed racism and misogynoir against Reese. Kelly emphasizes how speech is an act, and not just words; hand gestures and body movements (and responses to them) are actions too, and we must analyze them as such regarding systemic violence and resistance to it. We pivot to the racism at the 2022 Men's World Cup: when a white German commentator chose to describe the Moroccan player's hand gesture as an "Islamic State gesture " (folks, he held up his index finger to suggest #1, like athletes do worldwide). We discuss sporting nationalism and whiteness in relation to this incident. Considering the German state's insistence that criticism of Israel is antisemitic, we briefly talk about how this fits into Germany's nationalist use of Holocaust commemoration for anti-Arab racism.
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