“White people can’t play badminton.” This thought echoes through my mind every Tuesday during my weekly badminton session. I look around the university gym for a court I can join, taking mental note of which (white) people seem all too pleased just to be able to hit the shuttlecock over the net or who are laughing and joking too much and whom, therefore, I shall not play with. My eyes linger forlornly on the handful of Asians in the gym, smashing the birdie without mercy, creating that delicious popping sound. Alas, these brown folks are usually already embedded in a group of four.
It is, of course, absolute nonsense to say that white people can’t play badminton. While it’s true that Asians dominate the professional level to an absurd degree, Danes are also well-represented, and I seem to remember seeing Germans on the medals podium at the last Olympics. In any case, the professional level is irrelevant because I’m searching for people I can play with. And if I really paid attention on these Tuesdays, it would be apparent that the best players in the gym are, in fact, white. (To be fair, though, they outnumber people of colour 6:1). Furthermore, the friend I go with plays much better than me, and he’s white, too.
So. Despite evidence to the contrary, this race-based assertion flows through my head every week without fail. Why? I suspect it’s partly based on some basic need to belong to a certain group (Chinese/Asian) and prove my membership of that group outwardly by demonstrating a feature attributed to it (the stereotypical/racist(?) trait of ‘being good at badminton’). Since I can’t deliver on exceptional badminton skills, maybe I compensate by applying the inverse (‘being bad at badminton’) to the out-group (non-Asians).
What troubles me more than the thought itself is the resentment and outright scorn I feel when I see evidence supporting the assertion. I fear that these feelings are a specific manifestation of resentment and scorn I have, at a more general level, of two groups: white people and people who are bad at sports. There’s no real excuse for racism or ableism. Or is there? Am I allowed a tiny bit of leeway in using my able-bodied privilege to counteract the burden of other minority identities I have?
How problematic is this race-based prejudice? What should I do about it?