Update 9/18: Boston College has announced its own “Eagles for Equality” initiative. The group’s mission “is to build a more inclusive environment for all marginalized student-athletes, and to improve their experience.” The committee will comprise of 14 student-athletes and is led by BC volleyball’s Jewel Strawberry. The committee’s first action has been creating an “Equals for Equality” log “will be worn by BC student-athletes throughout the year on select team-issued apparel.”
Following months of ongoing protests regarding police brutality and discrimination against BIPOC individuals in America and beyond, and just weeks after many professional athletes chose to postpone games to bring awareness to Black Lives Matter, the ACC Committee for Racial and Social Justice has announced it’s initial plans for 2020.
The major initiatives include mandatory annual diversity training for athletes and staff, the creation of an “ACC unity symbol”, and a “unity statement” to be read before all games. The unity statement is as follows: ”We, the ACC, are committed to seeing each other as equals, supporting each other, and treating each other with respect and dignity at all times, recognizing that our differences don’t divide us, but they make us stronger.”
The committee is also responsible for the ACC agreeing to recognize Juneteenth as a holiday, for finding ways to help increase voter education and registration amongst players and fans, and initiating new partnerships with local organizations.
This is a great start, and it is wonderful to see the ACC talking challenging racism and discrimination. However, this initial press release does bring up some questions due to its lack of detail. In regards to diversity trainings: who will be running them, what will they consist of, and how does the ACC plan to encourage anti-racist learning past a once a year event? Being anti-racist (or anti-sexist or anti-homophobic or anti-ableist) is an ongoing process, not something that can be fixed in a day. Additionally, one would hope that individual schools will soon be updating their communities on specific partner organizations they plan to work with and how they plan to accomplish this while social distancing rules remain in effect.
It is also disheartening that nowhere in the press release or the unity statement is the phrase “Black Lives Matter” mentioned. Active anti-racism requires an acknowledgement that we are in the midst of ongoing protests and activism specifically motivated by the murders of numerous Black Americans. Generic statements about community unity risk coming off as empty and out of touch.
Hopefully Boston College will continue to listen to the student athletes that have been speaking up and doing the work, such as volleyball’s Gabrielle McCaa, the BC football team which recently took a day off of practice to discuss racism, the men’s basketball players who have vowed to all get out and vote, and the women’s basketball players and staff members who have continued to speak out and propose change after making this statement early in the protests.