Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Racism and Stereotyping on Campus: Experiences of African American Male Student-Athletes

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Racism and Stereotyping on Campus: Experiences of African American Male Student-Athletes

Article excerpt

Reported cases of racially charged occurrences continue on college campuses. With "Blackface" party incidents and "noose" hangings making news at numerous universities all over the country, African American students at predominantly White institutions (PWIs) may face challenges beyond the academic scope of tests, papers, and projects (Costello, 2010; Strausbaugh, 2006; Teaching Tolerance, 2002; Van Kerckhove, 2007; Wade, 2011). Facing and coping with racism has been identified as a risk factor and an impediment of achievement for African American students at PWIs (Feagin, Hernán, & Imani, 1996).

Graduation rates of college students are the most tangible measures of student outcomes and success. By this measure, African American male college students are considered one of the most at risk students on campus, having the lowest graduation rates of any other demographic group (The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, 2012). Similarly, as a faction of this group, African American male student-athletes' graduation rates are also of concern (Lapchick, 2010). In a recent longitudinal study of 76 universities in major Division I-A athletic conferences, only 50.2% of African American male student-athletes graduated within six years and 55.5% of African American men overall; this is in comparison to 66.9% of all student-athletes, 72.8% of undergraduate students overall (Harper, Williams, & Blackmon, 2013).

Less than 4% of students at Division I universities are African American, while 61% of men's basketball players and 46% of football players are African American (Harper, Williams, & Blackmon, 2013; Lapchick, 2010). These statistics suggest that further study of African American male student-athletes is important because they comprise a substantial proportion of African American students on many college campuses. This study adds to the current body of literature by presenting a glimpse into experiences and possible risk factors of one of the most at-risk student groups on Division I campuses.

Purpose of the Study

African American male student-athletes have a unique experience on predominantly White college campuses (Anderson, 1996; Beamon, 2008). In addition to the isolation that many student-athletes often experience, African American male student-athletes must also contend with negative racial, gender, and athletic stereotypes. Due to the overrepresentation of African American males participating in collegiate and professional sports, it may appear that the athletic world is free from racial discrimination. However, racism and exploitation exist in several areas of college and professional sports. Examples are found in the lack of effort given to improve the educational success of African American student-athletes in comparison to their White counterparts, stacking African American athletes at skilled positions as opposed to thinking positions, the absence of African Americans in decision-making and leadership positions at universities and in professional leagues, labor exploitation, and even in the salaries and endorsement opportunities of professional athletes (Edwards, 2000; Eitzen, 2000; Hall, 2001; Hoberman, 1997; Kahn 1991). Student-athletes of color are said to face specific difficulties such as social and academic integration and racism (Person, Benson-Quaziena, & Rogers, 2001 ; Person & LeNoir, 1997).

Scholarship exploring the experience of African Americans on predominantly white campuses has been presented by several researchers (Davis, 1995; Feagin & Sikes, 1995; Marcus et al., 2003; Smith, 2007; Thompson et al., 1990). However, this study fills a gap in the literature by acknowledging the uniqueness of high-profile African American male studentathletes' experiences. For the purposes of this study, high-profile is conceptualized as Division I athletes in revenue-generating sports such as men's basketball and football. College sports and sports history in general seems to be filled with stories and images of cultural pluralism, fairness, racial harmony, and color-blindness (Hylton, 2009); but what do the student-athletes themselves think? …

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