Consider this tragic story of prejudice and bigotry:
The mood after the race was jubilant. Sixteen-year-old Noor Alexandria Abukaram, who had just run her best time yet, hugged her high school teammates as they realised they were headed to regionals.
So far, so inspiring.
Then the students went to check their individual times at last Saturday’s Ohio cross-country meeting, Abukaram remembers. It seemed there was a mistake – her 22 minutes 22 seconds was not listed.
Oh no! Why not?
Other team members who’d sat out Abukaram’s race told her what they’d heard: an official at the Ohio High School Athletic Association approached their coach just before the race to say Abukaram needed a waiver to wear her hijab. Without it, she couldn’t compete.
That’s awful. Imagine thinking you’d competed and won fairly only to discover an obscure rule you’d never known previously had disqualified you.
Abukaram had never experienced this type of bureaucratic nonsense over religious clothing before, after all.
Abukaram says she’s watched her older sister come home crying from soccer games, after being told to change out of religious garb like the long pants she wears in addition to a headscarf.
Oh, that’s awkward.
The article then mentions a different, elite-level, athlete with similar problems:
Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first US athlete to compete in the Olympics with a hijab, has described sticking out uncomfortably at competitions and being asked to remove her headscarf for an event ID photo.
Well, unless everyone is forced to wear a headscarf, then I suppose she would look different, wouldn’t she?
As for ID photos requiring an unrestricted image of the competing athlete, I’m sure someone with even the mildest ability to hypothesise could think of how waiving that rule might result in a bad result.
Back to Abukaram’s tragic case. What say the athletics event organisers?
The Ohio High School Athletic Association says it wasn’t singling out Abukaram last weekend, just enforcing its rules. Students need a waiver to run cross-country in “religious headwear”, spokesman Tim Stried told The New York Times, and Abukaram’s school had not requested one.
Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they, the bigots.
Abukaram’s request after Saturday’s race was approved “immediately”, Stried said. That means Abukaram can run this weekend in regionals.
For Abukaram, the decision to strike her time was still hurtful. She wants the waiver requirement dropped – something OHSAA is now considering, Stried told the Times.
Quite right too. Everyone should be forced to change because of one person’s inability to ask for a waiver….which was granted immediately when requested.
Crybully is an interesting noun which explains much of what we see in cases involving participants in “The Oppression Olympics”.
In the entire article linked above, and the countless clones of it available via a Google search, the word “why” is conspicuously missing.
As in, “why does the Ohio High School Athletic Association ban head coverings unless agreed in advance?”
I can’t find the reasons on the association’s website, mainly because the bylaws and general rules pages have been removed. Interestingly, they are proud enough of their transgender policy to leave that up (spoiler alert; it’s a fudge, like Cricket Australia’s).
We’ll have to speculate then.
I imagine the rule was made because, unless they legislated for every possible religious headgear, they had to reserve the right to review each individual case and not be unreasonable in granting the waivers.
How might a general rule allowing headgear be abused?
Well, we could ask why cyclists wear this type of helmet, for example:
Then there might be reasons of safety; headphones are banned because its restricts competitors’ ability to be aware of other runners.
It seems reasonable, therefore, to check each proposed headgear before a race.
But, claiming victim status and throwing accusations of bigotry is rewarded because incentives matter.