Matt Hodler Profile picture
13 Jan, 20 tweets, 5 min read
Damn...I was inspired by @JohannaMellis to write about 3x Olympic swimmer Klete Keller's attendance at the coup attempt on January 6.

It makes sense because I study swimming & race & gender and swam in college - even at some of the same meets & pools as Keller (he was/is a much much much better swimmer than me), but I'm having a difficult time.

I am not surprised that an Olympian was there. As scholars have long pointed out, it is a racist colonialist project.


Even one of its former presidents was a fascist.

It's an organization that has disproportionately punished athletes of color.

Including punishing Tommie Smith & John Carlos in 1968.

And, team USA punished Olympian and Pan-Am medalist Gwen Berry for protesting at the 2018 Pan-Am Games.

And, to be honest, given swimming's whiteness and middle class-ness, I'm not surprised that that Olympian in attendance was a white swimmer who attended and competed at prestigious schools USC & Michigan.

I am not surprised with the nuanced coverage that the Swimswam article offered. They talked about why people thought it was Keller - he's 6'6" & went unmasked and wore his warm-up!

They gave a (too?) fair account of the coup on Tuesday, provided good pictures, and offered some good nuance to the personal problems Keller has had since he retired from the sport (divorce, failure to pay child support, bad post-Oly crash, etc.)

This passive & "fair" accounting is the White Racial Frame (Feagin) that rationalizes actions of rioters while our elected officials huddled in dark rooms at the US Capitol, saved by young staffers well-trained in active shooter drills after growing up in the US.

Keller's post-Olympic malaise and failures is important - but we need to consider them structurally, & within broader ideological contexts of white resentment and the white male prerogative that centers white men in the story of America & any de-centering feels like loss.

What's got me though...what's made it difficult for me to really think w/ any nuance...are the images of Keller in the piece.

Like I said, Keller and I did *not* know each other, but I knew people like Keller. I was teammates, friends, co-workers with people like Keller.

After days of images of (mostly) white men marauding the halls of the US Capitol & attacking Capitol Police, it was odd to see a picture of men just loitering around the rotunda. They looked like men just hanging out, as if they were at a backyard barbecue or tailgate.

The banality & mundanity of it struck me. The fact that these men knew they were breaking the law, knew there were violent people there with them - even if they weren't technically violent - and it didn't concern them enough. They just hung out while...

...people with guns and zipties and table legs and pipebombs and spears and tasers ran by them and chanted and searched for elected officials to (what? hang them?).

That act of inaction. That passive "go along" with the flow, that ability to plausibly deny their involvement while also being there and benefiting from it is whiteness. It is how whiteness operates. It is how people like me benefit from white supremacy.

I am not sure where else to go from here...these are unfinished thoughts... but I cannot get that out of my head.

They just hung out there.

Addendum: I even gave them the benefit of the doubt by just looking at the still pictures. Based on this video, Keller was right in the middle of some fighting.

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