A columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer compared the recent case of a high school wrestler having his dreadlocks cut before a match to the horrors of the Holocaust.
A 16-year-old wrestler in Atlantic County, New Jersey, was asked to cut his dreadlocks during a match last week. The story immediately blew up on social media, with many users condemning the referee and the school district for making the student choose between getting his dreadlocks cut off or forfeiting the match.
Now, a columnist from the Philadelphia Inquirer has a hot take on the situation. The referee’s decision to ask the black student athlete to cut his hair, according to columnist Abraham Gutman, is similar to “how the Nazis humiliated the Jews” during the Holocaust.
“So when I saw the video of a black teenage wrestler being forced to cut off his dreadlocks to compete, my mind immediately went to an image from the Holocaust that has stuck with me over the years — Nazi soldiers cutting the beards of Jewish men in the street,” Gutman wrote in his column.
Gutman went on to draw more ties between the situation with the wrestles and Jews during the Holocaust.
The Nazis cut the beards of Jewish men as a way to demonstrate control — to humiliate Jews by showing them that they don’t have power even over their own bodies. The choice of the beard is intentional. The Nazis attacked the visible element of being Jewish and declared it not welcomed by destroying it.
That is how dehumanization happens. That is how shame is developed. In silence, standing, cutting a part of you so that your body is cleared of your identity. It is cutting the beard, forcing women to stand naked, replacing your name with a tattooed number — those actions of the Nazis were the ways to break any semblance of pride of being Jewish. Shame makes people hide, not resist.
One Jewish blasted Gutman for the absurd comparison. “I am Jewish and I found this to be an offensive column drawing an illogical comparison to one of the worst tragedies of all time. There was no available headgear, and the wrestler and his coach should have known it was required ahead of time,” the commenter wrote. “Indeed, if you read another column in today’s Inky by a youth sports referee, Johnson was notified at a prior match but was allowed to wrestle by a not-so-by-the-book ref anyway. He chose to take one for the team; no one forcibly cut his hair. Next time, you bet the whole team will know the rules and be prepared.”
Last week, The Guardian wrote an article entitled “The cutting of a teenage wrestler’s hair was a familiar act of violence for black athletes,” which argued that the cutting of the athlete’s hair was an act of violence.