Between practice and the classroom : the making of masculinity and race in the mis-education of Black male student-athletes on a college campus

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This project argues that American college sports involving Black male athletes (primarily football and men’s basketball) at Gulf Coast State University (GCSU) actively construct and impact local knowledge about Black masculinity in relation to white, male, hetero-normative systems of authority. These sports, in turn, then impact policy, administrative decisions, and teaching approaches as they relate to young Black men on a college campus. In other words, Black male college athletes on a white college campus offer the opportunity for a reinforcement of systems of authority through the pattern of de-stabilizing their subjectivity (as nothing more than physical entities) in order to provide a revenue-generating resource for the university. I posit that the positioning of Black males in this space as athletes and as students is strategic and intentional, when one takes into account the ongoing dynamic of the hegemonic positioning of white, male, hetero-normative value systems as the unmarked standard of social norms. That these contested meanings become significant within the realm of sport situates sport itself as another, often underutilized, space for social inquiry. I further argue that this categorization is heightened in the context of a predominantly white institution. Through ethnographic fieldwork, I explored the sport (mainly football and men’s basketball) and academic community at GCSU with the goal of understanding how high-profile and high-revenue sports and their participants become central to the understanding and expression of normalized ideas about race, gender, and sexuality. I reason that the predominantly white demography of GCSU, added to the uneven ratio of Black to white males on the football and basketball teams, creates perceptions about race and masculinity that factor into people’s everyday understanding of the term “student-athlete”. The term “student-athlete” becomes racialized and gendered in ways that continually make reference to Black male athletes differently than other students and student-athletes at the university. I believe these effects on the term then impacts the structural mechanisms that affect the daily lives of these Black male athletes both on and off the field, both inside and outside the classroom.