Racism and Stereotypes Essay
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“Sport provides a particularly public display of relations of dominance and subordination…. The point of sport is to display publicly the processes of challenge and struggle between two sides alleged to begin in equal terms but determined to produce and sustain relations of dominance vis-a-vis one another. Moreover, sport as a meritocracy based on skill quietly reaffirms our national common sense; individuals who work hard and possess the right stuff will always prevail.
Turned on its head, this lesson becomes even more insidious: those who are at the top must have risen to the top through fair means and thus deserve their position.
In contrast, those not at the top do not possess the requisite talent for such privilege. Even the runner-up is a loser”(Wulfemeyer & Rada, 2005). Sport provides an objective measure to evaluate the performance of a player and/or a team. There are countless statistics for athletes in every sport, which are evaluated on a daily basis.
Statistics show how well an athlete performs and how good of an player they truly are.
As an athlete, talent is all that should matter and be looked at when making a judgment of whether they are good or not, unfortunately this does not always hold true today. Stereotyping, racism, sexism and all those negative aspects of life, which were thought to have diminished over the years, are still prominent and portrayed through the media to this day. Stereotyping is the process of imposing characteristics on people based on their perceived group membership (Harrison, 2001).
Based on stereotypical beliefs, we make social assumptions and make judgments on our knowledge of the perceived traits of those that fit into social categories. Viewing groups in terms of stereotypes is the brain’s way of filling in missing information about individuals we know little about by superimposing perceived traits of the group to which they belong. This is an efficient adaptation of the human mind to allow us to get out of “getting to know” everyone we encounter. Humans have neither the cognitive capacity, time, nor the desire to process all of the information available to us.
We therefore use our cognitive space as efficiently as possible by categorizing and compressing information in an attempt to store more (Rose & Christina, 2006). When stereotypes are based on a wealth of accumulated social and factual knowledge and are not used to make trait assumptions about individual group members, they are generally accurate and pose few problems. It is when stereotypes are based on false, misleading, or limited information that they become problematic.
While most stereotyping, even the problematic variety, can be considered harmless it holds potential for quick activation if circumstances and situations present themselves (Harrison Jr. , 2001). Sport and physical activity provide an abundant ground for the development, utilization, and prolongation of stereotypes. Racial stereotypes regarding the abilities of African Americans and Europeans are very much prominent in the realm of sport and physical activity. These stereotypes have been fueled historically by theories developed to explain the perceived performance differences between African Americans and European Americans.
Many years of theorizing and hypothesizing about the natural physical abilities of African American athletes have shaped the thinking of entire populations. These seemingly scientific theories and hypotheses have formed the origin of today’s African American athlete stereotype (Armstrong, 2011). The former United Nations’ Secretary General, Kofi Annan was quoted saying “sport is a universal language that can bring people together, no matter what their origin, background, religious beliefs or economic status” (United Nations, 2005) but this was not always the case.
Major barriers have been conquered over the years to bring equality to this nation and validate the former Secretary General’s above statement. One of the biggest issues that was dealt with was racism. This is a topic many like to tiptoe around and believe is nonexistent in American, the so-called melting pot of the world. Ethnic groups are equal if not more dominant in professional sports today in their participation in sport but the same cannot be said for the coverage of the events that they participate in.
Research shows that there are still priming racial stereotypes made by sport announcers (Westerfield, Johnson, Hallian). “African American athletes, once excluded from participating in professional and intercollegiate sports because of institutionalized discrimination, now participate in many sports at a rate that equals or greatly exceeds their representation in the population. This is especially true in the case of intercollegiate and professional football and basketball” (Center for the Study of Sport in Society, 2001).
As equality became more evident in sport, especially football and basketball, so did the media coverage of these sports. The development of technologies, such as the television or Internet, allows people all over the world to watch a growing increase in the popularity of sport. Over the years sports coverage has given a larger viewing population to the networks and the sporting entities have used that coverage to increase their revenue. Even though both equality for the minority player and the media were growing at the same time they were not growing together.
It was true that blacks were getting more rights to play but they were not being broadcasted out to a larger audience by the media. For years African Americans and the African American community have been underrepresented in television coverage. When African Americans did appear they were often pigeonholed into demeaning, stereotype ridden portrayals, showing them as “bestial, brutish, buffoonish, comical, criminal, dependant of government entitlements or support, ignorant, lazy, menacing, oversexed, and prone to out-of wedlock births” (Wulfemeyer & Rada, 2005).
The question of bias in sports coverage is neither new nor limited to race. To date, several research projects have uncovered bias across race, gender, and ethnicity (Wulfemeyer & Rada, 2005). The presence of bias has not been limited by venue either. Research has found bias across a wide range of sporting events ranging from professional and intercollegiate sports in the United States to international events such as the Olympics.
Research has also demonstrated that bias can take many forms, from what is heard from the spoken commentary on-air to what is seen from the game coverage (Wulfemeyer & Rada, 2005). One form of racial bias that researchers have consistently uncovered is the brawn versus brains descriptions directed toward the players. It would seem as though complimenting an athlete for his or her athletic ability and physical attributes would seem positive and encouraging to a player but that is not always the case.
Sometimes these seemingly positive comments have an underlying bias that is revealed by the commentary’s views of the players. This image that is made by the media that African Americans are naturally athletic and are blessed with God given talent can portray the negative creation and perception of the lazy athlete who does not have to work hard or at all at his/her craft. Many times it was also portrayed that blacks were more animalistic and farther away from being civilized than the rest of the population as well.
These stereotypical expressions were put into the open in 1989 when Jimmy Snyder, an on-air personality for CBS Sports, openly told the public that the success of African American athletes was the result of selective and effective breeding on the part of the slave owners. Announcers negate not just physical and intellectual ability; intellect and character were also commented on, further negating the African American athlete. These stereotypes are not just targeted towards African Americans; they apply and are present for all races.
Examples of these stereotypes are things such as blacks don’t feel pain, have no morals, are not team players have animal instincts, etc. Caucasian players can’t jump, they are hickish, and they are too loud or to opinionated and are very naive to everyday life. People of Asian decent are always good at math, cant drive well and are very strict with their children. Native Americans are lazy and sometimes alcoholics, and only live off the casinos. Hispanics are not patriotic, they all drive trucks; they are all-good at yard work and like to have a lot of children.
All of these are examples of stereotypes that are out in society today and the list could continue to go on and on. These stereotypes that are portrayed by the media have prominent effect of the sports that athletes choose to participate in, in many cases it probably even effect what position they play. Since media has become such a big part of today’s society and is incorporated into our everyday lives young athletes watch sports on television and listen to what is being said about certain athletes and are likely to base what they want to do on the sport that they best fit into.
For example if you are black you best fit in playing either basketball or football, if you are white you best fit in playing baseball or swimming, if you are of some sort of Hispanic decent you should play soccer or maybe even baseball. Even though racism is suppose to be a topic that was squashed long ago it still lives very much through stereotyping and is successfully denying full integration throughout the spectrum of sport. These same stereotypes that are made by the media towards the male roles of sport also apply to females as well.
Even though woman around the world now participate in sport they are still not held to the same standard as males. “When female athletes transgress gender norms and boundaries, even in a “Post-Title IX” moment, they are still held to antiquated societal standards of emphasized femininity and feminine appearance by the mainstream news media” (Waches, Messner, Dworkin, Cooky, 2010). A great examples of this taking place is the Don Imus controversy in 2007 when he made stereotypical, sexist and offensive comments about the Rutgers University woman’s basketball team.
Sexism is the belief or attitude that women are inferior to men, the application of masculine stereotypes to women or the hatred of one gender or sex (Griffin, 1992). “In collegiate sports, sexism can manifest itself in several ways including inequitable funding dedicated to women’s sports, media coverage of women’s sporting events, women’s college coaching salaries, views on elite female athletes and prejudice and discrimination against lesbians” (Whiteside & Hardin, 2009).
Sexist views on female athletes originated in the 1920s, from medical establishment concerns about the masculinizing effects of sport participation on women. From a contemporary standpoint, football, men’s basketball and most male college sports draw more interest and revenue than women’s college sports. This reality provides the foundation for beliefs about female athletic inferiority (Griffin, 1992). Sexism appears most often in women’s basketball, in part, because the game draws the most attention among women’s college sports and because women’s basketball is more similar to a men’s sport than any other college sport.
In addition, women’s basketball is not one of the socially approved feminine sports like tennis or golf. Traditionally, prissy sports like tennis, golf and gymnastics are viewed as more feminine and these sports are, coincidentally, inundated with White women. Black women have customarily participated in basketball and track, which have long been considered as masculine sports. Sport controversies can alienate and oppress Black female student-athletes who already confront isolation, media criticism, prejudice and stereotypes.
Neglecting race and gender controversies in sport can impact athletic department’s brand name recognition, alumni donations, corporate sponsorships and game attendance. More important, race and gender controversies also can negatively affect minority and female student-athletes’ recruitment, student-athletes’ social development and social justice for all student-athletes. “Inquires should uncover sociocultural implications that can be used to craft recommendations in instances when race, gender, and sport adversely intersect” (Waches, Messner, Dworkin, Cooky, 2010).
It is said that racism is something of the pass and in today’s society it is non-existence but according to Gill (2011) there is a modern type of racism called new racism. New racism is based on the widespread belief that racism no longer exists and civil rights legislation created an equal playing field. New racism includes feeling a way of life is threatened by others and different cultures are assumed to be incompatible. The traits that truly distinguish new racism from historical racism are: racial ambiguity, blaming Blacks for their problems, and the use of the media to facilitate racism.
Racial ambiguity refers to putting forth a non-prejudiced explanation for what might be considered as a prejudiced statement. For instance, when Don Imus was asked to explain his comments about the comment he had made about the woman’s Rutger team he stated that his comments were intended to be a joke. Present in new racism, unlike historical racism, is the belief that the problems Blacks experience are not a result of social disadvantage, but rather a result of some predisposed deviance in Black culture (Gill, 2011).
It is evident that racism, sexism, prejudice, stereotyping and a lack of equality are still very much present it sport today. Even with all the equality acts and laws that have been passed the playing field has yet to be leveled amongst different races, ethnic groups, and genders. Even though many sports have been intermingled there are still many sports that are dominated by one specific minority and that is not how it should be. The media needs stop putting emphasis and specific aspects of certain people’s life because in doing this they are generalizing a group.
Through generalization the media is implying that a certain group of people are all the same and thus should all be expected to act the same way. This brings a very negative aspect to sport. Since sport is such a big part of American culture I believe that the media should really begin to change their ways and stay as unbiased as possible to allow the viewing population to make their own judgments and opinions on people based on their talent, not on what generalized group they have been placed in. References Armstrong L., Ketra (2011).
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