Gay Black Swim Champ Shares How He Overcame Racism, Homopbobia

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday February 19, 2021

Top swimmer Dwight Richardson had several obstacles to overcome before he was finally accepted by teammates who made him the butt of rejection and racist conduct that included putting a noose around his neck. His championship athletic performance finally won them over.

But even then he stayed deep in the closet.

Richardson talked about his experiences as a high school swimmer LGBTQ athletics site Outsports, recalling that he was the only Black member of his swim team, and often the only Black athlete in the pool at swim meets.

His white teammates seemed to go out of their way to exclude him, such as the time three guys at a pool table needed a fourth to get a game going but then put their cues down and walked away rather than take him up on his offer to fill in.

The way members of competing teams treated him was even worse, he related, with some swimmers hurling racial epithets. But then came the incident with the noose, which his teammates put around his neck, saying, "Isn't this what people used on Black people?"

As Richardson tells it, his teammates seemed to grasp even at the time that "they went too far."

"They started telling me that they would fuck me up if I said anything," he recounted.

Richardson nearly quit the team, but his mother offered an alternative: To "whoop their asses in the water."

He did just that, becoming "a top-level swimmer, garnering the attention of college coaches, ultimately earning a spot on the Division II St. Andrews Presbyterian College," Outsports recounts, "He eventually transferred to Wingate Univ., where he was on the national runner-up 200 freestyle relay two of his years with the Bulldogs."

It was only then, after years of building his confidence, that Richardson started to come out of the closet. It was a long journey, made so in part by anti-gay taunts Richardson endured from other Black youths even as white fellow swimmers were subjecting him to racist treatment. Richardson recalled how "the Black kids didn't want anything to do with me because I 'sounded White,' so I was 'gay,' I was a 'faggot.' "

And now? Richardson is "out and proud," the athletics site reports, living in Chicago and pursuing a career as "a model and high-end stylist" - though, unfortunately, he still encounters racism, including from other gay men. He was "called the N-word in one of Chicago's biggest gay bars," Outsports reported.

But Richardson lets such things roll off him like water off a swim champ's back. "I still to this day have the mindset to just let things go," he told Outsports.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.