Do you remember that cultural awareness training those two AAU wrestling tournament volunteers were ordered to do as punishment for their racist remarks about a six-year-old American Indian competitor at the state contest in Aberdeen three weekends ago? They phoned it in:
Two volunteers who made offensive comments during a youth wrestling tournament in Aberdeen have completed the tasks asked of them, according to Northern State University wrestling coach Rocky Burkett.
While neither volunteer showed up to the cultural awareness program in person, they phoned in via teleconference, Burkett said.
…The Native American Student Association at Northern was involved in organizing the cultural education. President Shawnee Edge said members of the group were hoping the men would physically attend the session.
“I don’t know who was who, it was kept confidential,” Edge said, adding that the men were referred to as Caller 1 and Caller 2 [Shannon Marvel, “Wrestling Volunteers Complete Training, Family Unhappy with Resolution,” Aberdeen American News, 2016.04.22].
Let’s see: we set up a meeting that is supposed to bring racists and some of the people they loathe together, face-to-face, so they have to recognize and interact with each other as flesh-and-blood human beings, and instead the racists get to hide behind an electronic veil of secrecy. The two racists don’t have to look anyone in the eye. They get to sit in their own comfortable surroundings. The trainers are disembodied voices on a phone line. The trainers can’t watch the racists’ eyes for undivided attention. The trainers can’t even use the racists’ names to connect with them. Nobody develops a real human connection in this situation. Nobody really enters someone else’s culture.
There’s a big difference between uh-huh-ing your way through a phone conversation with people you’ve never met while you watch TV or surf the Web and sitting in a room surrounded by Indians who would like to challenge your racist attitude.
The parents of Nokosi Rising Shield, the wrestler targeted by the racist remarks, recognize the weakness of this response to racism:
Nichole and Justin Ringing Shield are Nokosi’s parents and emailed a statement expressing their displeasure with how the punishment has been enforced.
“In regards to the cultural awareness training … the men involved did not have enough respect and courtesy to attend the meeting. How can you have meaningful interaction if the guilty parties do not show up in person? This tells me they did not take this issue seriously. It also tells me they are cowards for not coming in person,” the email said [Marvel, 2016.04.22].
Expect Coach Burkett to announce wrestling training by phone for next season.