On January 26th, UCLA gymnastics team members Margzetta Frazier and Sekai Wright, sat down with actress and comedian Amanda Seales on her podcast Small Doses to provide deeper insights into the ongoing situation involving the racist antics of a former teammate.
For those of you unfamiliar with the incident, UCLA gymnasts addressed former teammate Alex Jeffery for allegedly using racial slurs (most notably in the form of rap lyrics). Despite their warnings, she continued her behavior.
What many don’t know is that the allegations of racist behavior go much deeper than a single isolated incident. Through the interview, we learn that this same gymnast has allegedly said things in the past that were offensive, including ranking girls on their “ugliness” according to skin color and placing Black team members at the bottom. When previously addressed by her teammates, Alex downplayed any harm by saying “this is how I was raised,” or “I don’t know what I did [wrong], but ok.” Common language that people use to distance themselves from behaviors they know to be wrong, without actually acknowledging any wrongdoing.
The behavior continued, so they brought it to the attention of the coaches, who later reached out to their athletes via texts and met with them individually.
These individual meetings were followed up by diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) meetings that Margzetta Frazier described in the podcast as more like “checking a box” than actual processing sessions. In fact, she felt that they were “subpar and ineffective” overall.
Frazier’s feelings about the DEI meetings contradict the statement released by UCLA athletics director Martin Jarmond.
“Over the last three and a half months, we’ve proactively engaged the support of campus and external experts on equity, diversity and inclusion, incidents of bias, mental-health and communication,” wrote Jarmond. “As we move forward, we will continue to work with student-athletes, coaches, campus and external partners on how best to support the team.”
If what Jarmond says about DEI work with a focus on mental health and communication is true, how proactive could the conversations be if the gymnasts didn’t find them useful or effective? Claiming to be engaged in proactive DEI work is not the same as doing the work itself.
Frustrated by the school’s response, Gymnasts used social media to let us know that their teammate wasn’t punished for her actions even when leadership was confronted by both Black and white team members.
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