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Washington Spirit players on racism, #BlackLivesMatter, and progress: Tegan McGrady on seeing color

Ignoring color ignores history

SOCCER: JUN 01 NWSL - Utah Royals FC at Washington Spirit Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In the wake of the brutal slaying of George Floyd, protests, which began in Minneapolis, where Floyd was killed, have sprung up across continents. Nearly every large city in America has hosted demonstrations, and some smaller town uprisings have made news too, but there have also been mass gatherings spurred by the Black Lives Matter movement in Australia, Ghana, South Africa, England, France, Belgium and more. The key difference in these uprisings is that people, specifically white people, are listening.

This has led to many athletes — America’s most visible entertainers — using their platforms to discuss racism and push for genuine, long overdue changes. In this mini-series we’ll look at what some Washington Spirit players are doing and saying during this potentially transformative moment of American history.

One of the shocks of this moment, particularly for Black people, is that a larger-than-expected chunk of the globe is progressing in racial analysis. Previously, Black issues were thought of as Black peoples’ problem alone, and any attempt at empathy was charity and nothing more. Though we still hear things like “I don’t have a racist bone in my body” and “I have black friends”, these hackneyed lines — whether through the absurdity of certain people saying them, or movies like Get Out mocking them — are more broadly viewed as more clumsy evasive maneuver than evidence of a lack of racism.

A similar one that has yet to be fully exposed is “I don’t see color”. The impetus behind the comment, while potentially well-meaning, is a rudimentary understanding of equality, and the world. In an interview with Just Women’s Sports, second-year Spirit defender Tegan McGrady was interviewed about this moment and the importance of seeing color.

“People try and say, “Oh, we don’t see color.” But if you don’t see color, then you haven’t really seen the history of this world, the history of this country. We need to talk about the fact that we do see color. And we need to talk about history in a way that includes everyone. Then we can move forward.” –Tegan McGrady; source: Just Women’s Sports

History is context, and it is impossible to contextualize our present, particularly racism within it, without also understanding how we got to this point. It is of course uncomfortable, and avoiding it, even by yanking the handbrake to drift around the historical differences between Black and white, is much easier than facing and digesting it.

But not only does that leave us with an incomplete picture of the present, it erases the individuality of an entire group.

“You can’t be color blind in this world because in order to understand the history of anyone in the world, you have to see color. But that doesn’t mean you have to see it in a way where one is better than the other. You can see color as representing different cultures, different people that we can learn from. Then you see that color isn’t a bad thing. Color is a great thing. It gives us a foundation to build a country on top of. And you can see that with what we’re doing now in the black community. We’re not asking to be seen as not black. We’re asking to be seen as black and equal.” –Tegan McGrady; source: Just Women’s Sports

Black people will always be black, and it’s important to see, advocate for, and protect Blackness as worthy of the same humanity afforded to non-Black and non-Brown people. The world is complex, and the impact of its histories are carried within, and on, us every day. They cannot be escaped, but they can be understood, and that understanding can lead to more equitable societies — and that is the only route.