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Athleticism Essay

1169 words - 5 pages

When I think about the black athlete I experience both pride and discomfort. In America where black people are still politically and economically disenfranchised, it appears that athleticism is the realm where black people excel and dominate. The discomfort comes from the observation that ‘domination’ is only viable when the black male body is harnessed in a way that doesn’t challenge white supremacy in other arenas (Collins, 2005). His body is controlled by contracts of powerful owners, regulated by standardized rules and by-laws from sporting associations and placed in physical spaces where his bodily performance is a spectacle for largely white audiences. There is something historic and normal about the sporting performance that has at once, drawn me in and isolated me. I didn’t quite know why. Ben Carrington’s work Race, Sport and Politics helps me to understand that these boundaries and meanings mark and define ‘the black athlete’ and that they can be understood as sites of political struggle. From the onset, I was captivated by his careful and through analysis of various social frameworks in order to utilize sports as a lens to understand the “intra relationship” between racial discourse, the performance of sport, and the politics in making the ‘black athlete’. In this paper I will explore the various concepts and contentions Carrington discovers as they apply to black males while he tries to formulate a framework to understand the complexity of race and sport and the politics created therein. I will focus on the key concepts essential to creating his theoretical framework specifically, ‘the black athlete’, the ‘white colonial frame’, and the ‘sporting black Atlantic’.
The black athlete is a political entity and a global sporting racial project. It exists in states of constant contention. The concept of ‘modern’ sport is paradoxically an activity whose irrationality is an outcome of its supposed rationality, and whose civility is only born from acts of savagery (p. 45). The black athlete occupies this same space. He is trapped in a “double bind” that reduces him to a “semi-humanized category of radical otherness” (p. 2). At once the black athlete is typical; his existence is defined as the boundaries of blackness as he comes to represent the whole of black folk. In that same moment, he is exceptional and celebrated as super human. This configuration which osculates with the political and social climate is constantly being forged and re-forged by the environment outside the athlete himself. He becomes both a commodity and a commodified version of a human, but never exactly human. In this, the black athlete very humanity is a product of political and social disputation.
The black athlete as a global racial project arose at a time when colonial anxiety over its impeding global decline needed to redefine what it meant to be white. Carrington contends that the black athlete was developed out of a white, colonial, masculinist fear of loss...

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