Much to do has been made about Andrew Johnson, the young wrestler from NJ, who was made to cut his dreadlocks off to compete in a school-sanctioned wresting match. I’ve seen some opinions go so far as to say, the referee who asked Johnson to cut his hair deserves a lifetime ban, a punishment that I do not disagree. But did we miss the mark?
In today’s “cancel culture,” it’s easy for people to be canceled. But did the write folks get canceled in this scenario? We’ll take an in-depth look and determine that. We’ll examine the actions of the following people: the coaches; the teammates (white and teammates of color); the ref; and the bystanders; and the post remarks by the superintendent of schools.
Firstly, the coaches. Sharif El-Mekki described this perfectly in his blog post. He talked about the duty of the coaches to protect student-athletes. Coaches spend a lot of time with student-athletes. As a former student-athlete, I have coaches that I still look at as father figures. These coaches and their inability to stand up for Johnson was a huge letdown. Should the coaches be canceled?
Next, Citizen Stewart touched on an angle that many of us missed. That was the performance of the school, and why we really should be mad. The school performs poorly academically when compared to other high schools in NJ. Citizen contends that not only has Johnson been failed by this act of discrimination, but he’s also been failed by a school system that does not adequately prepare its scholars. Should the school be canceled?
Moreover, I was able to zoom in on a picture that I found to be extraordinary. Many of Johnson’s white teammates gave him high-fives, and pumped him up for what they assumed was a selfless act.
I’m guessing they never took into account the more profound sacrifice that Johnson had to make, a sacrifice all too common for those that look like Johnson. However, sitting on the bench was a young student of color, who in my opinion looked paralyzed by what his teammate was being asked to do. Where were the other bystanders, why didn’t anyone intervene on behalf of this student? Should the bystanders be canceled?
Lastly, and probably one of the most important takeaways for me, was the response of the superintendent of schools from Johnson’s school district. In his attempt to (CYOB), he missed on an opportunity to use this occurrence as a valuable, teachable moment for his stakeholders. Instead, he insists Johnson made his own choice, distancing himself away from the matter. Should the superintendent be canceled?