Politicians are holding the IOC accountable for its racist policies.
Alice Dearing, who is set to become the first black British female swimmer at the Olympics, models the Soul Cap. The product is designed for people with voluminous hair. (Photo credit: Soul Cap Instagram)

Should we be celebrating the Olympics if the Olympics can’t celebrate difference?

The Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup of the European Parliament is accusing the International Olympic Committee, along with the rest of the global sports community, for singling out Black women with a ban on swim caps made for natural Black hair.

In a letter made out to the presidents of IOC and World Athletics, the anti-racist group calls for lifting the ban on the Soul Cap — swim caps designed specifically for thick, voluminous hair — on grounds that it “reflects stigmatization of Black hair and leads to institutional inequalities, especially targeting Black women,” according to CNN

The International Swimming Federation, known as FINA, declined to approve the caps for international competitions because they do not “follow the natural form of the head,” Soul Cap told BBC. That decision, reported earlier this month by various news outlets, was met with backlash.

The letter argues that the Olympics are based on fair and equal opportunities, a right the ban takes away from many Black swimmers. 

The IOC needs to “establish frameworks and policies to prevent similar cases of exclusion,” wrote the anti-racist group, which is made up of members of the European Parliament across various political parties.

“[FINA is] refusing to allow Soul Cap caps and the attached reasoning reflects nothing but ignorance and racism,” said Samira Rafeala, a Dutch member who initiated the letter. “Our call to the IOC is simple: This can’t be the intention of the rules, so it’s about time to change the rules.”

FINA said on July 2 that it would reconsider the ban, but no decision has been made as yet.