On Friday, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order targeting Black and Arab immigrants. In a nutshell, the Order: 1) indefinitely barred Syrian refugees from entering the United States; 2) suspended all refugee admissions for 120 days and 3) blocked citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, refugees or otherwise, from entering the United States for 90 days: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Lawsuits and demonstrations in protest of the Order have broken out all over the country and politicians and athletes alike are speaking out against it. The Order, advertised as a measure to protect the American public from terrorism, neither targets the countries that have produced the most international nor prevents radicalized Americans (the individuals responsible for the most recent, deadly attacks in the US) from executing acts of terrorism. But who’s worried about pesky facts? A few misstatements or alternative facts never hurt anyone, right?
In thinking about who might be affected by the Order, my mind instantly went to women. So many women would be stopped from entering the Land of the Free. These women really aren’t asking for much. They are trying to flee extremist regimes that punish them just for having to “x” chromosomes; they are seeking to protect their children from deafening warfare and bloodshed; and searching for the opportunity to live a peaceful existence. For now, sadly, these women must wait for that peace and freedom. While some seem to think that the long lines and delayed flights brought on by protests are equivalent to the delay that the refugees endure, I can assure you that #FirstWorldProblems level of discomfort in no way compares to the agonizing uncertainty, fear and instability that these displaced women find themselves in. But I guess it’s fine for people to spew insensitive rants while they basks in their privilege; the privilege (that they didn’t earn) of being an American citizen. But we can ignore the complaints. They aren’t hurting anybody, right?
I also thought about how the Order might affect sports and began to research the professional athletes from the seven “banned” countries. You know what I found? It’s not so easy to find female professional athletes from these countries. The vast, vast majority of the noted professional athletes are men. And it’s not because women in the countries don’t have the desire or talent to professionally compete. No, Ghada Shouaa, Daniah Hagul and others proved that’s not the issue. The dismal showing of women in sports in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen is a story of opportunity and resources, or the lack thereof. Some women, like Shirin Nobahari, are subject to extremist, militant dogma that relegate them a second-class existence, leaving no room for the exploration of their athletic talents. Some women, like Samia Yusuf Omar and Maryan Nah Muse, were born into war-torn countries that had their infrastructures obliterated, leaving them without training facilities or the ability to build them. And for some women their homelands are impoverished countries that can’t afford proper food or medical resources to support significant participation in women’s (or men’s) sports. But no one actually needs sports. We should be worried about terrorism not women in sports in these countries, right?
Presenting alternative facts and misdirecting attention and funds towards people who aren’t really a threat is a problem. Privileged Americans providing distasteful, callous commentary is a problem. Not giving women the opportunity to live their lives free from oppression, poverty and war is a problem. I’m not sure what evil lurks in the minds of politicians that would allow and call for the disregard of human well-being, but it’s a problem. And we, as members of a privileged society, must resist all of these problems. Resist being fed lies and propaganda by speaking and only accepting the truth. Resist the urge to become complacent in your privilege by showing compassion for others’ plight. Resist the urge to accept that the freeing and elevating power of sports is reserved for Westerners. We must resist. We must resist because, believe it or not, those lies, that privileged status and the freedom to play sports in this country are all really fluid. Right before your very eyes the lies and powers behind them can be directed at you; the privilege your skin color, sex, orientation, religion and zip code afford you can all be stripped away; and the opportunity to participate in your favorite sports could be non-existent. Without resistance the civil liberties we hold dear (but at time take for granted) could disappear, making the least of our worries women in sports.