Fighting the stereotypes: Speaker discusses notions of ...

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Fighting the stereotypes: Speaker discusses notions of black athletes

By Lisa Murray

Through an informative and interactive lecture, Professor C. Keith Harrison of the University of Michigan discussed issues touching on cultural diversity.

During the session, Harrison focused on the issue of stereotyping black athletes.

“Powerful stereotypes have been established, and one way to make a change is to talk about it,” Harrison said.

He began the lecture by having those present participate in an association exercise involving writing down what comes to mind when the words “football player” or “professor” are mentioned.

This activity demonstrated how assumptions concerning particular groups have already been formed in society, he said.

When most people think of a student athlete, they automatically think of an African American, according to Harrison.

He stressed the importance of recognizing the diversity within the black community.

“50 percent of black male athletes in higher education are not from the inner city,” he said.

Recognizing student athletes for academic achievements, as well as athletic will create a balance, Harrison added.

“People in power positions need to be careful about making rules which affect others of different perspectives,” he said of a rule made against celebration in games.

For instance, football players will receive penalties for gestures made in the end zone, according to Harrison.

These rules, according to Harrison, were directed specifically toward the black players.

“Those of African descent are emotional and artistic. This comes out in a lot of things they do, including sports. Black athletes have emotional outbursts as a result of the celebratory feeling,” said Ivan Guillory, who attended the lecture.

Guillory agreed the rule against celebration in football games was targeted at black players.

In respect to the rule, Harrison feels there is a line the athlete crosses when his celebration involves taunting other players, though.

“I think there needs to be other vehicles for black American males to express themselves,” Harrison said.

Guillory also said there is a need for expression, but “a line should be not to get in someone’s face and pick a fight.”

Kristi Metoyer, a graduate student who attended the lecture, feels the problem is larger than the debate over dances and hand gestures on the playing field.

“The issue is how society validates black men. There is a negative connotation to black men, and because of the way society is, and how African Americans are portrayed I don’t see a change,” she said.

Still, Harrison said white athletes are discriminated against as well, which is why perspectives from all ethnic groups should be acknowledged.

“Cultural sensitivity and an understanding of people from different environments is important,” he said.

Harrison did offer a number of solutions to dispel the myths surrounding student athletes.

Included in the list were communicating with classmates and professors, keeping up with papers, projects and exams and attending class regularly.

“Interact in class at all times in a positive and scholarly manner. Joking, talking and other rude behaviors only reinforce the stereotype of student athletes,” Harrison offered.

Today’s society demonstrates a lack of understanding of male issues, according to Harrison.

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