Like on the Field, Create Space

Becoming part of the solution

The nation’s alarm clock went off on Tuesday, May 26, when our eyes witnessed the horrific killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. It snapped our collective selves up in our beds, shocking us into sudden action. His death marks yet another tragic death of a Black person at the hands of our completely broken country.

Are you upset yet? Because the Black community certainly is. They have been; we just didn’t hear them. Or we heard them and ignored their cries. Their rightful humanity is centuries overdue.

I am a member of Navajo Nation. I also identify as Filipino-American. I am of the Roxas (Light & Dark) clan, born for the Tsé níjíkíní (Honey-Combed Rock People) clan. My maternal grandfather is of the Mangubat (People Who Battle) clan. I am a first-generation American on my mom’s side, the first in my family to graduate from college, and the first in my extended family to graduate with a Juris Doctorate degree. My life experiences have been shaped by being an Indigenous, non-Black person of color with relatively low family wealth.

My goal is to share my perspective with other non-Black people in the ultimate community as we process everything happening during this Black Lives Matter uprising. Most importantly, I want to amplify the messages of Black voices. They are absolutely necessary to create any lasting reform in our society. There are three items that I want to cover:

  1. Acknowledgement. There is a lot happening right now. This is a long-term fight. Buckle up.
  2. Emotions. There are endless articles, resources, and posts. Have you asked yourself: “Why am I feeling ________?” (insert any negative feelings preventing you from taking action or continuing to take action); “What should I say?”; “What if I make a mistake?”
  3. Actions. “What actions can I take to be an effective, sustained agent for change?” “What can I do within the ultimate community?”

Part I: Acknowledgement

Back to the unexpected alarm. It rang for all to hear, and we kind of woke up, unsure of whether it was a dream. Protests have been going on everywhere for more than a week. We are being called to action, but some of us haven’t jumped on board yet. Some of us are one foot on, one foot off. Some of us are all-in, not realizing that we may quit in a week. I imagine a lot of us are “ready” to do what it takes to change the system.

However, do not fool yourself: this will be hard work. There is more than 400 years of historical baggage to unpack to truly understand the full context and why you need to fight against anti-Black racism and violence in policing toward Black people. It is your civic duty to figure out the issues.

The Black community has been continually traumatized because people in power treat them as less than human, maintaining the status quo. People in power assume we will idly continue on with our lives because that is what we are conditioned to do. Acknowledge that we will not let that happen this time. We are in this for the long haul. We have more to do.

Part II: In Our Feelings and Finding Our Voice

With piles of information being thrown at you all at once, your feelings may be all over the place. Are you feeling guilty? Hopeless? Defensive? Scared? Regretful? Unsafe? Ashamed? Fake? There are tons of emotions you may have, and they are all legitimate. Sort through them. Recognize that a big part of what is causing them is your acknowledgment of societal inequities. Reflect upon your privileges inherently caused by racism. Prepare yourself mentally to fight against those inequities after processing your emotions.

A common feeling is to get defensive about admitting that we are part of the issue. Imagine a call has been made on the field. You were involved and caught the disc for an important goal. A resolution not in your favor would cause the disc to go back, so you argue the call. We don’t like to give up something that has belonged to us. We also don’t like to admit when we’re wrong. As non-Black people benefiting from anti-Black racism, we must give up privileges along the way. We have ignored the struggles of Black people while reaping illicit rewards, and now we must give the disc back. We can’t argue this call.

Unfortunately, when you decide to speak up, you may upset individuals that you care about. A family member, friend, or co-worker. You cannot make everyone happy. With a sensitive topic like systemic racism being discussed 24/7, our people-pleasing impulses are at an all-time high, magnified even more during a pandemic and national civil unrest. We are fearful of publicly making mistakes or that we will push people away.

Do not let that fear silence you. Do not resort to a simple one-act performance before burrowing back into your comfort zone. Imagine the waves of pain, anger, despair, and other emotions that our Black friends are experiencing. They have the burden of doing the most processing. They have the most to be afraid of. Be compassionate if you are met with anger.

After making a public statement, you see a cringey “all lives matter” comment. Our eyes and ears eagerly watch conflicts, but do you go out of your way to squarely face challenges? As a society, we don’t regularly practice going through the process of effective conflict resolution. We don’t engage in contentious conversations because we have the privilege of reading, then scrolling past a potentially productive dialogue. Additionally, we are conflict-averse when it comes to topics that make us uncomfortable.

Look at these tough conversations as opportunities for growth. We must build those muscles of maneuvering through uncomfortable discussions, instead of conveniently skirting around them. Reflect upon ways to maintain a neutral perspective when someone questions your actions or when you help someone understand why they should care. Take your time to maintain a level head. Keep yourself accountable. Our voices are important for this movement to cause change. We have more to do.

Part III: Actions

Why do I need to act? Picture yourself playing on an ultimate field. The field represents any and all opportunities that you’ve had to succeed in life. Have you been taking cutting space? Have you benefited by getting stats and scores to the detriment of others? The answer is a resounding YES. Now is the exact right time to make space for lasting justice and peace for the Black community. However, we can’t just move aside and expect the Black community to score by themselves. We need to proactively make space by taking action. We are a part of the problem if we aren’t part of the solution.

What actions should I take? As you become familiar with the issues, grasp the main, continuously reiterated points. Echo those messages across our community and beyond. These messages need to be shared in many different forms to reach the most people. Further, creating social change has many different avenues. For example, if you have an excess of any resource (i.e. time, money, expertise), give that resource to a relevant cause. There is no right way to take action.

Ask your non-Black friends for resources. Watch documentaries like 13th, read books about antiracism, reflect upon your experiences as a non-Black person, and donate to and support Black-owned platforms and organizations. Proactively engage in civic discussions with family members and friends who don’t understand the movement. Advocate at the local level by contacting governmental offices about relevant law and policy reforms. Determining your effective, sustainable actions will require continual self-reflection and education. When you decide what works best for you, let your actions be guided by Black leaders. Our individual actions become the collective actions that will function as the true agent for positive change.

Tweet

How long should I take action for? You completed a task of social activism! You respectfully share your work on social media as an agent for the Black community, and you get positive feedback. That feeling of validation is good, but quickly move past it. It can easily mutate into complacency and stunt the efforts of this movement. Publicly acknowledge that the real work is done by the ones that have always been oppressed. The Black community has served long enough. We can feel good about our work because we are now serving them until they too can freely experience the best of humanity.

What can I do within the ultimate community? We can normally turn to the ultimate community to take action with a fundraiser hat tournament, silent auction, or showcase game. While considering social distancing measures, brainstorm ideas with friends and teammates. Premier Ultimate League’s New York Gridlock fundraised over $10,000 for the #FreeBlackMamas campaign. Color of Ultimate and Ultiworld hosted a game viewing of LA Throwback finals on Friday, followed by a live discussion panel. The AUDL co-hosted a live panel with Disc/Diversity and has raised over $70,000 in a few days. Watch those discussions and talk about them. Plan a bi-weekly team zoom hangout, and invite everyone to buy dinner at black-owned businesses. Text resources and updates to your team GroupMe to keep your teammates engaged. Do not expect everything from your Black teammates, even if they are willing. It is up to us as non-Black advocates to amplify Black voices by carrying our own weight. We have more to do.

Final Thoughts

A few days ago, I was uplifted by the poem “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou. Please read it. The following were my sentiments after reading it.

Listen to the Black leaders around you everywhere.

They are in your community, quietly, steadfastly doing incredible work that you are not aware of and will never know. Be an activist, even if no one can see you.

They are in your social media feeds, speaking from their hearts and minds, carrying the weight of their ancestors who never got to experience real justice and peace in this country. Feel their pain, and channel it to make change.

They are your friends, resting in their homes. Text and call them to let them know you are willing to support them however you can.

They are gathered in public spaces lawfully, organizing powerful, peaceful protests. Follow their lead.

They are political candidates running in elections, on ballots that you have yet to cast. Vote for them.

They are queens and kings. Thank them.

They are calling out to you. Amplify their voices. Like Killer Mike said: Plot. Plan. Strategize. Organize. Mobilize.

We will always have more to do.

Lastly, I would like to thank all of the courageous Black voices in the ultimate community. Especially Anraya Palmer, Alex Fairley, Jasmine Childress, Lauren Woods, Devin Cox, Zaki Durry, Trent Dillon, Keith Raynor, and Mark Rauls. Y’all have given me the strength and endurance for this fight. Black Lives Matter!

Ultiworld seeks to publish a wide range of opinion essays. Find out more information on how to submit an essay.

  1. Leah Tsinajinnie
    Leah Tsinajinnie

    Leah Tsinajinnie is an ultimate player from Atlanta, GA that has played around the world in nine countries. She currently competes with Atlanta Ozone and Atlanta Soul and has won two USAU Club National Championships with DC Scandal. Leah graduated in May 2020 from the Arizona State University Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law with a Juris Doctorate degree. She plans to work on public health and environmental law and policy issues affecting Native American communities and other marginalized groups.

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