When I decided to dive into the world of roller skating, the first resource that came up was a group called Planet Roller Skate, a skating community on various social media platforms with over 10,000 members. The group features roller skaters from all corners of the country, led most visibly by a woman known as Indy Jamma Jones (real name Amy West), whose YouTube videos I watched to gain an understanding of rollerskating culture and terminology. While Jones and Planet Roller Skate appeared to promote diversity and inclusion of all races, gender identities, and body sizes, skaters of color have recently been subjected to a different experience on Planet Roller Skate’s private Facebook page.
The page, which is advertised as an online community for “Planet Roller Skaters to connect and communicate,” has come under fire by the roller-skating community for censoring and erasing the stories of skaters of color, specifically black skaters who went to the group to discuss discrimination they faced while skating and their feelings on the recent killing of George Floyd. Instead of allowing the conversation to progress and providing a safe space for skaters of color to voice their concerns, the group admins deleted the posts, citing their “no political or religious content” rule. Other skaters noted that while the rule was widely known, conversations about sexism, ableism, and misogyny had been allowed to take place in the past.
In an effort to quell the growing backlash, a screenshot shows that Jones offered to create a separate page for such a discussion to take place, referring to it as “adult” conversation. As explained in this video posted by skater Faeiryne Faun, some skaters in the group were banned for questioning why the posts were removed in the first place and calling out the covert racism behind the literal erasure of black experiences.
It should go without saying, that the murder, abuse, and erasure of black people is not simply an uncomfortable political topic reserved for the adults’ table at dinner. It is an inescapable part of everyday life for black people in America, no matter their age. There is no rest from conversations about what it’s like to be discriminated against simply for existing in a space dominated by white people. To even attempt to push that conversation to the side or relegate it as political isn’t just showing your whole ass, it’s showing your privilege and it’s unfathomable that in 2020 this conversation needs to be had with self-proclaimed allies.
Despite a lengthy apology from Jones’s business partner Shayna “Pigeon” Meikle Anderson, it is unclear whether Jones herself has apologized to the group for deleting the posts and sidelining the conversation. She has yet to post about the incident on her YouTube channel or Instagram account. In an effort to bring healing to the roller-skating community, several skaters of color shared their personal stories on YouTube, but they were then criticized for doing so on the Moxi Roller Skates channel, a brand heavily associated with Jones and Planet Roller Skate. Shove, a skater who participated in the video, wrote on her Instagram story, “For those of you trying to make us black people feel bad or like tokens for using the Moxi platform to share our stories, stop it. The skate community is hurting [right now] We were offered a platform, we took it.” It is mind-boggling that anyone should have to defend their decision to bring representation to the forefront immediately after the erasure of black stories, but it is yet another example of the impossible hoops people of color are constantly expected to jump through in order to be heard.
When I laced up my roller skates for the first time, which I now regret purchasing from Planet Roller Skate’s shop, it was with the belief that I’d eventually become part of a community that supported and championed skaters of color. Skating was supposed to be for anyone and everyone, a phrase uttered by Jones in several videos and Instagram posts. But there can’t be a unified community when BIPOC are pressured to be quiet and relegated to other spaces while white skaters get to stand in the middle of the street and preach about safe spaces that don’t exist.