I get it; Winnipeg has bad snowy (and yes I’m aware snow is white) winters, so it makes sense that our one winter sport team reflects that. However, that was in 1996. Two decades later, the term “white out” carries more issues with it than it did.
This is to focus on why this slogan is bad. I am not bashing the hockey team itself or people’s love for the sport, but it is important to show the issues of racism and white privilege.
In the last few months, Tumblr has made a point to have a #blackout day for people of colour to have a voice and gain visibility. In the last few weeks, the Winnipeg Jets have made it in the playoffs and their slogan from two decades ago, white out (#whiteout), has returned to the city.
The patriotism that comes out of these hockey fans has focused more on the nostalgia towards the slogan than real societal issues, such as white privilege and racism.
There are three reasons for this;
1. People are unaware of what white privilege is and how that affects racism;
2. People only understand racism as a huge red flag in their faces; and
3. People are unaware of certain social media trends that contribute to the issue of the slogan.
White privilege is the way white people or white passing people are treated in political, social and economic situations. Having this privilege based on our race puts us at the top of the hierarchy and we can sometimes forget that there are people of colour who do not get the same privileges as us.
For example, in our city, indigenous people are treated horribly for many reasons; they have faced systematic racism for decades now and continue to feel the weight of that while they are stereotyped and shoved outside of society because of white people and their privileges. So, having a hashtag that amplifies “white” is not the most appropriate.
There have been many comments made in these discussions on Facebook that tie in the KKK being the only way that people will see it as a racism issue. There have also been comments about how because a friend and I disagree with racism being directed at white people, that it equates to being part of the KKK and being seen as a racist.
The issue with this is that racism between white people doesn’t exist, but it is such a huge scarecrow defense to go too. If people can’t see the racism, they need to make someone else out to be a racist.
Racism is a systematic oppression, so you cannot always see it and the fact that people aren’t aware of this is also part of the problem. A “whiteout” is not the most appropriate thing to have as a slogan, since it has underlying tones of racism.
The #blackout trend on Tumblr has been an apparent thing to me and a few other people, but as discussions have been taking place, it’s apparent a lot of these hockey fans are unaware of that trend.
This is why a lot of people don’t see any other issues with it; they literally have no idea. Not everyone has access to social media or certain social media sites, but when someone is explaining there are hidden issues, it’s important to listen and check them out.
The problem is that white privileged people want a “white out” hashtag because they feel entitled to more visibility than they already have. So, when I see #whiteout all over my social media, I don’t think about the Jets, I think about privileged white people wanting to silence people of colour.
Ignorance is the main issue that seems to be wrapped around the hashtag debate. Not knowing how racism shows itself in society, what white privilege is and not looking into issues that are raised are joined together to make this debate extremely frustrating.
It’s 2015 and we live in a city that is known for its racism. It might be time to recognize the facts and change the slogan to a non-offensive one. After all, it’s only a sport. It’s not as important in bettering society as fixing issues of racism and white privilege are.
Danelle Granger is an aspiring journalist with a passion for feminist and queer issues.
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