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While It’s Nice Skating On Black Ice Time To Do More And Get Serious
WHILE IT’S NICE SKATING ON BLACK ICE
TIME TO DO MORE AND GET SERIOUS ICE SKATING UPTOWN IN HARLEM
Monday evening on a wonderfully
cold spring evening in New York City
Central Park’s premier outdoor skating rink
was filled with young Black women proving
the obvious they can ice skate every bit
as well as their White Sisters
Figure Skating in Harlem has been going strong for 9 years now encouraging young African American girls to take up figure skating and integrate the sport into a well rounded education.
For all those who like to criticize Sports and especially competitive sports we should never lose sight of the fact that Sports and competing against others in “games”‘ enhances the ability of young boys nd girls to excel in all aspects of life.
The fact that some prominent successful White skating champions such as Sarah Hughes, Dick Buttons, Dorothy Hammill, Oksana Baiul, Sasha Cohen and others are associated with this program and many of them came out for the annual gala at Wollman Rink speaks well of them and the program.
Ice skating in general and figure skating specifically is one sport on that almost “endless” list of Sports that do not encourage and normally discourage Black participation. Yes it is a form of Discrimination and Racism. There are NO Sports with DNA markers that make Whites but not Black capable of playing those Sports. What we see again and again is Exclusion. Just as our 2 part Harvard Report detailed in a different way recently.
While efforts like Figure Skating in Harlem and a similar program Ice Hockey in Harlem are worthy of all the compliments they receive they can also be criticized. Not specifically these programs nor those involved but the fact that such programs are really not intended to produce professional level African Americans in these sports. Rather better educated young people.
The fact remains if young Africa Americans don’t see any African American competitors on the ice at the Olympics and in the many other competitions something pivotal is missing. ROLE MODELS.
Think about these young girls in their classroom setting watching ice skating films from the Olympics and national championships. ALL they see are young White women on the Ice. What exactly does that do for their self-image. To make them believe that could be them. Nothing. It is a sad scene.
The very fact that ALL the skaters who sponsor Figure Skating in Harlem are White sends a powerful psychological message as unintended as it is to these kids. Sure you can figure skate but you will NEVER be a Champion.
For these programs to take it to the next level the same process that White kids benefit from so must young Black kids. A 6 or 7 year old White girl who shows exceptional affinity for the ice will have her parents sought out. Various trainers and special schooling will be available to her. Some 7 or 8 year old Black girl in Harlem who shows innate talent on the ice has no such support.
Why not ??
That’s easy because the network that surrounds the professional and the Olympic level figure skating “industry” sees no value for them nor do the many sponsors in trying hard to put African Americans into competition.
YES yes yes. If a Black kid breaks through anyway say Debi Thomas and defies the Odds eventually they will be somewhat welcome into the “club” because they are the exception. But you will NEVER hear anyone involved in the figure skating “hierarchy” lobby for 10%-20% of the competitive figure skaters in America being African American in the coming years.
It is revealing that as good as Figure Skating in Harlem is as an “educational” and confidence building program and fun for those participating in 9 years not one single competitive skater has emerged from the program.
The Point is ….
Programs like Figure Skating in Harlem and Ice Hockey in Harlem could be far more valuable if they had dual goals. Both to introduce lots of young Black girls and boys to Sports they are not normally exposed.
But as much programs that would be geared to find the best of the best and provide them the coaching and the equipment and the resources so that the best young African Americans could readily join the ranks of competitive skaters.
Unless and until we can turn on
Olympics or national championships
and not be Surprised to see
Black faces on the Ice
enough is not
Whenever you want to reach us with comments or better yet an idea for a topic for the Box ……. firstname.lastname@example.org
DEBI THOMAS FEBRUARY 1988