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Author Topic: Did USFSA used to be prejudicial?  (Read 2491 times)

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Offline Query

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Did USFSA used to be prejudicial?
« on: April 01, 2015, 07:05:38 PM »
I have wondered how it happens that USA has two big national figure skating clubs - USFSA (US Figure Skating Association - re-abbreviated USFS in 2007), and ISI (Ice Skating Institute).

Someone told me an explanation that sounds a little crazy. The story is that USFSA was once run like some country clubs - that they tried to only let in WASPS, and kept out minority ethnic and religious groups, or judged them poorly. That ISI, and many of its member rinks, were formed in reaction to that, to be more inclusive. But that somewhere around the 1970s and 1980s, the USFSA gradually became more inclusive, letting in anyone who could pay, and that USFS judging gradually became less prejudicial, so non-WASPS like Sasha Cohen could join and do well. But that there remained bad feelings between the people who ran the clubs for quite some time, which delayed their coming to friendly agreements. By the time USFSA and ISI came to agreement, so this person said, the prejudicial era had essentially ended, and there has therefore been increasingly little need for two national clubs to exist. So the ISI, which is at a disadvantage because it can't give access to ISU competitions, is dying off.

(The USFSA has also finally started pushing its Learn To Skate program enough to compete better with the corresponding ISI program, but that is a separate issue.)

Is there solid evidence for such a story? Without convincing evidence, I'm reluctant to believe it. AFAICT, the USFSA exists for the purpose of helping US figure skaters win ISU competitions, so such prejudice would have been contra-productive, because it would have reduced the U.S. competitive pool.

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Re: Did USFSA used to be prejudicial?
« Reply #1 on: April 01, 2015, 07:35:05 PM »
I don't have much time to write BUT I can tell you that my home club as a child in the 60s was definitely prejudicial - you could not be black or Jewish for sure (although looking back I know that there were most likely non-secular Jews that were passing for non-Jews) -- I know this made my father very angry and I'm guessing this was one reason why we quit skating when I was 14.

I don't know about USFSA though - but this was definitely the culture at our club.

Offline Doubletoe

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Re: Did USFSA used to be prejudicial?
« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2015, 02:13:57 PM »
Skating clubs used to be very exclusive, and by that, yes, White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.  With money.  My coach, who was Italian-American and not from a wealthy family, had a hard time being accepted by his skating club when he started skating back in the mid-50's.  Mabel Fairbanks--who was African-American--wasn't even allowed to take lessons at her local ice rink at all.

I don't know if ISI was founded *specifically* to address racial or ethnic prejudice, but I'm pretty sure it was to provide more kids with the opportunity to learn to skate without having to spend an arm and a leg and become part of an exclusive organizational test structure.  According to the ISI website, it was "Founded in 1959 as a nonprofit organization for owners, operators and developers of ice skating facilities."

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Re: Did USFSA used to be prejudicial?
« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2015, 02:23:32 PM »
Doubletoe - interesting about your coach - he was a member of my club - good thing they didn't know I was half Italian!  Anyway, I met a woman of Armenian decent whose family was denied membership to that same club - in that same time-period.

ISI started in 1959?  Wow. I didn't realize it went that far back.


Offline Query

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Re: Did USFSA used to be prejudicial?
« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2015, 07:14:17 PM »
I guess many local organizations practiced discrimination at one time.

Did the national USFSA used to admit rinks and clubs in Catholic/Jewish/Black/Irish/etc. neighborhoods?

Did the ISI?

----

This is in relation to some research I was doing about the Northwest Ice Arena in Baltimore, where I sometimes skated, which was sold at foreclosure and closed in 2011. I talked to a former employee who said it was associated with the ISI because it was in a mostly Jewish neighborhood, and they believed the USFSA wasn't admitting Jews, but that the ISI was, when it opened. I am just trying to confirm that statement.

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Re: Did USFSA used to be prejudicial?
« Reply #5 on: April 02, 2015, 09:52:41 PM »
I think the purpose of ISI is to help rink owners make money.  That means being inclusive.  For example, ISI competitions include lots of different events.  Which means the skaters need to buy lots of practice ice to learn all those programs.

Offline amy1984

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Re: Did USFSA used to be prejudicial?
« Reply #6 on: April 03, 2015, 12:07:33 AM »
I'm not American so I guess I don't really know the history of this, but just from having a brief exposure to the country club environment, I was wondering if the predjudice was a product of the CC that hosted the skating club? Or was it an actual USFSA issue?  Sadly, many country clubs at that time were quite discriminatory.

Offline Doubletoe

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Re: Did USFSA used to be prejudicial?
« Reply #7 on: April 06, 2015, 06:57:33 PM »
I'm going to guess it was the skating clubs that didn't want to let minorities into the club or onto their club ice, just like a lot of country clubs.  It's quite possible that the USFSA had no official stance on discrimination at all, but if minorities couldn't join their local skating club, that pretty much kept them out and the USFSA had nothing to say about it.

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Re: Did USFSA used to be prejudicial?
« Reply #8 on: April 17, 2015, 08:48:14 AM »
As recently as the mid-1980s, I was denied membership in a club because of my race (African-American), although I was told I was "too old" to be a member.  I was about 16.  Fast-forward 5 years and they were begging me to join because they lost 60% of their members because they went away to college.  Am I a member of that club?  Nope.
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Offline Query

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Re: Did USFSA used to be prejudicial?
« Reply #9 on: April 17, 2015, 01:50:00 PM »
As recently as the mid-1980s, I was denied membership in a club because of my race (African-American)

Oh, my. How awful? Did you join another club?

Offline Doubletoe

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Re: Did USFSA used to be prejudicial?
« Reply #10 on: April 22, 2015, 02:16:52 PM »
As recently as the mid-1980s, I was denied membership in a club because of my race (African-American), although I was told I was "too old" to be a member.  I was about 16.  Fast-forward 5 years and they were begging me to join because they lost 60% of their members because they went away to college.  Am I a member of that club?  Nope.

Gotta love it when karma gets your revenge for you!  What a stupid club.

Offline Query

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Re: Did USFSA used to be prejudicial?
« Reply #11 on: April 22, 2015, 07:37:35 PM »
Let's just hope that the problem is mostly solved, at least in this country.

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Re: Did USFSA used to be prejudicial?
« Reply #12 on: April 22, 2015, 08:02:22 PM »
Yes I'm in with the 90's. I have a skating blog. http://icedoesntcare.blogspot.com/

Offline Query

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Re: Did USFSA used to be prejudicial?
« Reply #13 on: April 25, 2015, 06:40:38 PM »
Thanks!

That's a fantastic interview.

And there is lots of information there, on many subjects.

Including on one reason why the ISI has allowed the USFS to take over more and more of the LTS market.

Now that I think of it, I know well one of the first Jews allowed into my alma matter in 1942. Someone I know who grew up on campas at the public University nearest me now, said that he was 16 - about 40 years ago - when he saw a black person for the first time, on campus. So I guess casual overt discrimination on a large scale was just part of U.S. culture.

I wonder the opportunity to discriminate is part of the reason that even now, PSA and USFS (at least for the BS program) require prior member references, which presumably someone privately evaluates, to become a coach in their programs. It's an obvious way to keep the group exclusive of any group you want to keep out.

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Re: Did USFSA used to be prejudicial?
« Reply #14 on: April 25, 2015, 08:07:58 PM »
I wonder the opportunity to discriminate is part of the reason that even now, PSA and USFS (at least for the BS program) require prior member references, which presumably someone privately evaluates, to become a coach in their programs. It's an obvious way to keep the group exclusive of any group you want to keep out.

I don't understand what you're talking about here.  The only reference I would have had to become a USFS Basic Skills instructor was to be hired by the rink's program director.  You need to be sponsored to join PSA, but all you have to do is list your sponsor's name - nobody "evaluates" anything beyond that, as far as I know.  I always thought of the sponsor as somebody you knew personally who could help answer any questions you might have, especially when you begin the ratings exam process.  I've certainly never heard of it being used in a discriminatory way, at least not nowadays.

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Re: Did USFSA used to be prejudicial?
« Reply #15 on: April 25, 2015, 09:34:04 PM »
I don't understand what you're talking about here.  The only reference I would have had to become a USFS Basic Skills instructor was to be hired by the rink's program director.

Ditto this - unless you don't pass the background check I don't see USFS denying a BS instructor registration.  I was registered as a BS instructor before I was officially "hired" by my rink - they took care of my instructor registration, all I had to do on my end was complete the background check through USFS.  Unless you are implying that some discrimination can occur at the rink level.

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Re: Did USFSA used to be prejudicial?
« Reply #16 on: April 28, 2015, 04:52:52 PM »
If PSA has never been exclusive that way, that's a great thing!

Incidentally, if you go back to the late 1940's and early 1950's, and look at places like archive.org for college yearbooks, with photos, you will notice that a lot of U.S. colleges were all-white, or close to it. Including my Alma Mater. My mom tells a story from the 1940s, when she helped run a College folk festival. She recruited Leadbelly, who had encountered some anti-black sentiment in his time. He was somewhat intimidated at the start of the festival, because there were only 3 blacks on campus.

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Re: Did USFSA used to be prejudicial?
« Reply #17 on: May 07, 2015, 07:45:09 AM »
I joined a club that will probably be "swallowed" by the club who didn't want me in the beginning.  I'm still a member of that club; I think we just have enough members to keep it open.  In the next few years, my club will probably be merged with the other club, which makes me sad.   :'(
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Re: Did USFSA used to be prejudicial?
« Reply #18 on: May 07, 2015, 12:33:14 PM »
I get that it is sad that the club that took you in is dying. At the same time, it is a wonderful thing that the once-evil club is finally accepting enough of people of multiple backgrounds that the merger is possible.

I guess this is a lot like what has been happened to a lot of the historically black colleges, and other schools catered to oft excluded categories.