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Photo by Cole Lawrence
OTTAWA, Ontario — It took until he was 14 years old before he even played with another Black player.
Former Ravens football player and current CFL free agent Nate Behar opened up about his own lived experience with racialization during the recent Carleton Ravens informational webinar titled Race and Sport: Addressing problems of equity, barriers to access & discrimination in sport. Doctor Janelle Joseph from the University of Toronto also took part to share her expertise on racialization in the world of sport.
The webinar was put on by the Carleton Athletics Racism, Equity and Diversity committee made up entirely of Ravens student-athletes, says committee leader and men’s soccer athlete Jimi Aribido. The focus of the event was to create space for an open and honest dialogue on the complexities of racism in sport and culture.
“Racism is highly nuanced across different sports and cultural constructions,” says Joseph. “It often manifests differently but is still pervasive.” In order to address and correct these manifestations of racism in society at large, they need to be named and talked about. Behar says that for an athlete, racism can often take the form of micro-aggressions which happen on a daily basis. “Sometimes a White player and a Black player are discussed and scouted very differently. White receivers get characterized as humble or quietly going about their business but for Black players people will make it about anything other than your talent or hard work.”
Joseph notes that racialized athletes often face barriers of access to sport, which can come in the form of socio-economic disparity, geographic challenges and many others. She says that inclusion in positions of leadership is also imperative. “We need to ask who is missing in hiring practices? Who is examining policies?” She says maintaining diversity in hiring practices can change the lives of athletes by inspiring them, and making them feel connected and whole.
“We leave pieces of ourselves at home when we do things like straighten our hair to be more palatable for the masses. If we could feel our full selves we would perform better in all parts of life and communities.”
While dealing with the varied ways in which racism pervades society can be emotionally and spiritually exhausting, Behar says it is important for athletes to speak about their experiences and to express their emotions. “We need to also be humble. Be caring and selfless in the face of hatefulness. People who hate because they think it will make them king will only be king of the ashes, which is the king of nothing.”
With the success of this event, planning has already begun on the next webinar. “Ultimately we hope to inspire change,” says Aribido. “The Racism, Equity and Diversity committee was really formed as a call to action, and the town hall series is one of many ways which we can help keep this very important conversation alive.”