The Black Migrant Athlete: Media, Race, and the Diaspora in Sports

The Black Migrant Athlete: Media, Race, and the Diaspora in Sports

The Black Migrant Athlete: Media, Race, and the Diaspora in Sports

The Black Migrant Athlete: Media, Race, and the Diaspora in Sports

Synopsis

The popularity and globalization of sport have led to an ever-increasing migration of black athletes from the global South to the United States and Western Europe. While the hegemonic ideology surrounding sport is that it brings diverse people together and ameliorates social divisions, sociologists of sport have shown this to be a gross simplification. Instead, sport and its narratives often reinforce and re-create stereotypes and social boundaries, especially regarding race and the prowess and the position of the black athlete. Because sport is a contested terrain for maintaining and challenging racial norms and boundaries, the black athlete has always impacted popular (white) perceptions of blackness in a global manner.

The Black Migrant Athlete analyzes the construction of race in Western societies through a study of the black African migrant athlete. Munene Franjo Mwaniki presents ten black African migrant athletes as a conceptual starting point to interrogate the nuances of white supremacy and of the migrant and immigrant experience with a global perspective. By using celebrity athletes such as Hakeem Olajuwon, Dikembe Mutombo, and Catherine Ndereba as entry points into a global discourse, Mwaniki explores how these athletes are wrapped in social and cultural meanings by predominately white-owned and -dominated media organizations. Drawing from discourse analysis and cultural studies, Mwaniki examines the various power relations via media texts regarding race, gender, sexuality, class, and nationality.

Excerpt

This project was born out of my personal experiences in trying to make sense of the world and my place in it. I grew up, second-generation Kenyan on my father’s side and fourth-generation Croatian on my mother’s, in a small rural town in North Carolina. According to the 2015 census the county I grew up in is around 85 percent white and 2.5 percent black/African American. the county is named after Andrew Jackson and borders the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Reservation. in 2010 the black population was around 2 percent, rounding up, and things were not any more diverse decades earlier when I was a child. All of this to say that in the early nineties the only other black person, let alone African/Kenyan, I knew was my father. My father’s family lived and still lives in Kenya, and while we visited when we had the money, I did not have consistent interaction with them until those who were my age came to the United States for college. My mother’s big Croatian American family all lived and still live in and around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which was at least a ten-hour drive away, so I saw them only once or twice a year.

Needless to say, I was rather racially and ethnically isolated from my extended family and within my rural town—both from anything African or Kenyan and from the very small local African American population. There were ten black students among the one thousand students in my high school. To escape this isolation—to see and feel like I was interacting with people who looked like me—I often turned to sport. I played sports, watched them, and even loved the early video games on my Nintendo and Super Nintendo. Sport and the explo-

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