Junkyard Turkeys Issue Anti-Racism Statement

Julie Korgen '21, Guest Writer

The Junkyard Turkeys have been active on Dickinson’s campus for decades, but Ultimate Frisbee has been around since 1968. The sport has a history of exclusivity based on race and socioeconomic status, and Dickinson’s team has undoubtedly contributed to this history. Dickinson’s Ultimate Frisbee team was called the “Jive Turkeys” up until 2018. The term “Jive Turkeys” originates from African American vernacular, and our appropriation of the phrase was racist. 

According to alumni Shannon Nolan, one of the leaders of the name change, “we wanted to make sure that everyone felt welcome and included at practices and other events.” Now, the team is called the Junkyard Turkeys. This new name is a reference to the “junk” strategy in the game of frisbee, and still honoring the alumni team named “The Godfeathers.” Although this change was implemented in 2018, we acknowledge that this change was not completely incorporated into the team. The following statement was created by the antiracism subcommittee of the current Junkyard Turkeys, and goes deeper into the history of the phrase, the history of our team, and our commitment to our name change. This statement marks the beginning of our commitment to antiracism.

Fall 2021 Public Statement

On behalf of the 2021-22 Junkyard Turkey Ultimate Frisbee team of Dickinson College, we want to make a public statement recognizing and regarding racism that has existed both on our team, as well as in our sport. Previously known as “The Jive Turkeys,” we silently changed our name to The Junkyard Turkeys in the Fall of 2018. We recognize the racial connotation of “Jive Turkey” and are not here to overlook our history, but rather to acknowledge it.

The word “Jive” itself is of African American vernacular and of African origin. The word is used not only to describe a style of fast-paced, lively jazz dance, but also is used to mean “empty, misleading talk” (Harper). In its colloquial use, the word “jive” is typically used to indicate “not acting right” and there is also “fluid meaning and application [of this word] but it is generally disparaging” (Harper). The phrase “Jive Turkey” is also of African American vernacular and is a derogatory insult that describes someone who “is unreliable, makes exaggerations or empty promises, or is otherwise dishonest” (Dictionary.com). Furthermore, the term “shuck and jive”, meaning “misleading or deceptive talk or behavior, as to give a false impression” is a phrase from African-American vernacular that generally means to effect performative behavior in a way that highlights the difference in power between white people and African-Americans that has been created by institutionalized racism. The action of “shucking and jiving” is generally seen as a betrayal of yourself and your culture and people for the benefit of the system that oppresses you. As we strive to be actively anti-racist, we felt this statement was necessary to acknowledge our past name and its connotation.

As a predominantly white team we recognize that the use of “Jive Turkey” for our team was racist. We additionally acknowledge that although we changed our name in 2018, there have still been instances where both we and our alumni have continued to use “Jive Turkey” or some reference to it. Older members of our team have jerseys that say “Jive Turkey” with the old logo,

there were some disks and spare jerseys at practice that still had the old logo, current members and alumni sometimes refer to our home tournament as “Jive Fest,” and our email still has the old name (though we are working on getting a new email). Through lack of consistency and reinforcement, our team has continued to harm by using or referencing “Jive Turkey.”

In the past, team members have attempted to mitigate this harm by referring to the team as simply, “Jive.” This effort changed nothing, though, as the word “jive” still originates from African American Vernacular English (thefreedictionary.com). The word “jive” without “turkey” following it also enables a connection to the phrase, “shucking and jiving,” which is used to describe Black people who are being disingenuous, or putting on a show for their superiors (Urban Dictionary). Consequently, the full name change from “Jive Turkeys” to “Junkyard Turkeys” was necessary. Our previous name does not represent who we are as a team, nor who we want to be and therefore we are committed to our name change.

The environment of Ultimate Frisbee has a history of being predominantly white and non-inclusive. This is why it is most crucial to acknowledge our wrongdoings of the past and create a symbolic and authentic inclusive space.Mainly offered and played in wealthy white communities, the homogenous quality of this sport produces many accounts of microaggressions and other acts of racism against BIPOC and other marginalized groups.

We are not looking to erase our history but rather to recognize it, bring it forward, and make it public. We are sitting with our own discomfort and will continue to be actively anti-racist as a team. We understand that there may have been more harm done than in the instances mentioned above and we are looking to rectify the harm done and to prevent all further harm.

The Junkyard Turkeys are committed to being actively anti-racist beyond the discussion for this statement. As we strive to embody and claim this progressive identity, we also know that there is still work that needs to be done and we promise to keep learning and listening.

Read about diversity in Ultimate Frisbee

Chang, C. (2017, April 2). On Ultimate and “Equity and Diversity”. medium.com. Retrieved October 17, 2021.

https://medium.com/@chipadelphia/on-ultimate-and-equity-and-diversity-69ea72505a05

Eisner, L. (2019, February 21). The Potential of Ultimate Frisbee for Transformative Justice. YWCA.org. Retrieved October 17, 2021. https://www.ywca.org/blog/2019/02/21/the-potential-of-ultimate-frisbee-for-transformati ve-justice/

Rath, Z. C. (2021, January 6). Con10enT: Disc Diversity Announces The First All-Black Ultimate Tour. ultiworld.com. Retrieved October 17, 2021. https://ultiworld.com/2021/01/06/con10ent-disc-diversity-announces-the-first-all-black-ul timate-tour/

Rodrigues, S. (n.d.). People of Color in the Sport of Ultimate. allgirleverything.org. Retrieved October 17, 2021.

https://www.allgirleverything.org/2020/11/people-of-color-in-the-sport-of-ultimate/

2021 Ultiworld. (2018, January 12). On Ultimate and Race. ultiworld.com. Retrieved October 17, 2021. https://ultiworld.com/2018/01/12/on-ultimate-and-race/

2021 USA Ultimate. (n.d.). Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. usaultimate.org. Retrieved October 17, 2021. https://usaultimate.org/equity-diversity-inclusion/