Activists call Winnipeg Whiteout tradition racist

A fan-inspired “white out” is now being called problematic by some Winnipeg activists, including local grassroots advocacy group Black Space Winnipeg.

Roberto Wakerell-Cruz Montreal QC

Winnipeg is a diverse city that rallies around its beloved hockey team. The Winnipeg Jets have fans of all genders, ethnicities, political views, and religions. The Winnipeg Whiteout is a tradition that dates back to 1987, in which fans create a virtual blizzard in response to the Calgary Flames’ “C of Red” by wearing all-white clothing during games, while also flooding the streets in support of their team.

Whiteout street parties in April and May 2018 crowded downtown Winnipeg streets to the point where attendance was capped at 27,000. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

But now the fan-inspired “white out” is being called problematic by some Winnipeg activists, including local grassroots advocacy group Black Space Winnipeg.

According to Black Space Winnipeg’s founder Alexa Potashnik, some of the language used by Winnipeg Jets fans in their celebration of the postseason is problematic, and could potentially be making people feel unsafe!

They argue that usage of phrases like, “Turn downtown Winnipeg White again” mirror phrases used by “a problematic US politician,” he who shall not be named, President Trump. They argue that headlines like “Province to spend up to $400K on Whiteout parties” could potentially “carry a very different meaning depending on who’s reading it.” This is very true. If any social justice troglodyte were to come across such a headline, I’m sure they would be quick to demand an apology from the “alt-right” adjacent Winnipeg Jets.

Black Space Winnipeg may have unwittingly united all of us, as hockey fans of all creeds will now be joined in their belief that these people have no idea what they’re talking about.

“We’re getting people to think critically about it. If it’s primarily white people coming downtown wearing all white, painting their faces white… I’m sorry, that’s very concerning sometimes and you have to look at it from all perspectives,” Potashnik told Global News.

To the people who are concerned about the Winnipeg Jets and their “problematic” celebrations, to those sincerely concerned about their safety because of the Whiteout, I ask: what is it like to live in a bubble? How does your brain work? How could you be presented with all of the facts surrounding such a great tradition and bravely say, “Couldn’t that be problematic, you know, because white people?”

Whiteouts in Winnipeg, Blackouts in Pittsburgh, the aforementioned “C of Red,” and traditions of similar nature are common sports practices that have been around for decades. And guess what? They’re not racist. They’re just fun. Let us have nice things.

Of course, Potashnik doesn’t expect it will happen. She says she’d like to see a new name for the street parties. Something more inclusive, as terms like WHITEOUT or even, I don’t know, BLACK SPACE WINNIPEG, could be seen as not tolerant enough.

Her group’s ultimate goal isn’t to shut down the festivities, but to discuss how to make them more welcoming for Winnipeggers of all backgrounds.

“I’m willing to take on that conversation,” she said. “I’m open, we’re open to having these conversations, so folks should be open to making these parties inclusive so everyone feels safe.”

So this is where we stand. Yet another sad reflection of the state of our society. The lens of race has infiltrated literally all aspects of our society. Everything is racist, even making the playoffs.

Nevertheless, we look forward to next November when Black Space Winnipeg launches their next campaign against the white supremacy of snow.


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