Paul R. Lehman, The wrestling referee’s decision to force the teen’s haircut was biased and insensative

December 23, 2018 at 1:01 am | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, blacks, Ethnicity in America, European American, justice, Prejudice, Race in America, whites | 1 Comment
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Cutting Johnson’s hair was not the problem. No. The action taken by Alan Maloney was not about Andrew Johnson’s hair. Maloney’s action was that of a seemingly ethnic bigot taking advantage of a situation to exercise his bigotry with no expectation of negative, or any, repercussions. Maloney’s actions can be viewed from a biased perspective as bigoted, arrogant, and ignorant.

European Americans are conditioned by society to see people of color as different from them and in some instances to be feared and avoided. One explanation for Maloney’s actions regarding the cutting of Johnson’s hair is that the hair represented a sign of freedom of expression that Maloney did not like or appreciate in a person of color. That freedom of expression by Johnson could have represented a sign of power being loss by Maloney, and that could have triggered the action as a form of defense. The natural response by Maloney under those conditions is to attack the problem which Johnson’s hair represented. In this situation, the rules regarding a wrestler’s hair length might come into play if one was to consider just the rules. In order to follow the rules, Maloney should have given Johnson the option of securing his hair so as not to interfere with his match. One irony relative to this issue is the fact that Johnson had been wrestling all season long with his hair not causing a problem or being of concern until this match.

The primary area of concern in social conditioning for European Americans is the comfort that comes from thinking, feeling, and acting superior to people of color. That comfort comes from the support given by society in general and the lack of any serious repercussions for displaying that superiority through acts of bigotry. Apparently, Maloney felt comfortable in ordering Johnson to either cut his hair or forfeit the match because of his power as a European American and possibly as a referee. In any event, no one including the coach, trainer, parents, or other referees, tried to intervene on Johnson’s behalf. Maloney, evidently, gave no thought to how this public display of symbolic emasculation of a young man of color would affect him and his mental state of mind.

In America the natural assumption of many European Americans relative to people of color is that they must meet the approval of European Americans before they can be seen as human being of like status, not equals, but similar. So, society generally dismisses anything that seems to represent an injustice committed against a person of color because what happens to them is not that important. As in this case, no one questioned Maloney regarding the ultimatum he gave Johnson. The fact that Maloney was a referee gave him the added sense of control over the situation regarding the match and Johnson. None-the-less, what Maloney did show was a gross lack of concern and understanding for a young athlete who he placed in a serious situation regarding his options.

Fortunately, today technology has afforded us the opportunity to record actions and activities in real-time, and the entire episode of Johnson’s hair being cut before and after was all caught on video. The video gives us an opportunity to see and evaluate what happened and the reactions of the participants. What the video cannot show is the mental state of Johnson’s subjection to public victimization. Even though he won the match, anyone could tell by his demeanor and body language afterward that Johnson was not a happy trooper.

As long as the plague of ethnic bigotry continues to exist, we as a society can actually do some things to help in the process of bringing some of it under control. For example, if someone, European American or any other person feels s uncomfortable about a person of color in or near their vicinity, they simply call 911 and the police come to remedy the situation. The fact that these incidents underscore ethnic bigotry, little if any accountability is required from the callers. We have always been informed that ignorance of the law is no excuse, but that does but seem to apply to some people.

Someone should have to answer for Johnson being placed in the situation where he had to decide on having his hair cut or competing in his wrestling match. One way to get the attention of people is through civil courts. In many videos we see that the victim usually gets the bad end of the experience, however, if the victim believes he or she was treated unjustly, he or she should be allowed to go to civil court and seek damages. That way, when the callers have to pay out settlements, they will be reminded of their part in calling 911 on someone for a somewhat inconsequential action. These cases should be made public in an effort to educate the public of consequences of such actions.

With respect to Maloney and his decision to give Johnson an ultimatum, his hair or his match, one should question his ability to serve as a referee since he apparently has little or no regards for the feeling of the students or at least some them. But Maloney was not alone in his decision, the rest of the people directly and indirectly associated with the incident should be held accountable as well. When something unjust or unfair happens in our face and we do nothing, we are just as negligent as the person committing the offense. Although Johnson might have never experienced bigotry at first hand before, this experience with the referee and the cutting of his hair will make a permanent imprint on his psyche and will have a marked influence on how he views the world now. To see and read about young people of color being treated unfairly by some European Americans is one thing, but to encounter it personally is a totally unique experience.

The lesson continues to be too difficult and challenging, but eventually, it must be learned— although we are an ethnically diverse society, all people have the right to be treated justly and fairly, with no exceptions. Anything less is unacceptable in our democracy.

 

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