In its focus on genetics and race, global newspaper coverage of athletics is far from “post-racial”

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Social Science on 2015-09-13 02:27Z by Steven

In its focus on genetics and race, global newspaper coverage of athletics is far from “post-racial”

The LSE’s daily blog on American Politics and Policy
The London School of Economics and Political Science
London, United Kingdom

Matthew W. Hughey, Associate Professor of Sociology
University of Connecticut

Devon R. Goss, Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology
University of Connecticut

With the years of racially segregated sports now long behind us, many would consider that sports coverage is color-blind and post-racial. In new research which examines newspaper coverage of race, sport and genetics from 2003 to 2014, Matthew W. Hughey and Devon R. Goss find that this is not the case. They write that the media persistently reinforces the notions that African American’s athletic success is based on biology, while whites’ comes from hard work and intelligence. They also debunk the ideas often seen in the media that race has a biological reality which can be defined by genes, and that the historic process of slavery somehow eliminated ‘weaker genes’ from the African American population, making them a more athletic race.

For many, sport represents the ultimate color-blind space, affording a level playing field where only one’s training and skills are the hallmarks of competition. Hence, racist and prejudicial beliefs and phenomena are both literally and figuratively, out-of-bounds. Moreover, sport has been understood as an activity that promotes racial harmony amongst both participants and observers. But such a claim is a bit simplistic.

To make sense of the correlation between different racial groups’ success and failures amidst different athletic events, many draw from the deep well of scientific racism to quench their thirst for explanatory knowledge. For instance, some research has found that many athletes believe that white sporting success is attributable to intelligence, while nonwhite success is accredited to genetically predisposed bodies—a longstanding cultural trope known as “white brains versus black brawn”—that has been around for at least a century. After African American boxer Jack Johnson became the heavyweight champion of the world in 1908, he precipitated a slow reconsideration of the assumption of nonwhites’ physical inferiority—a central tenet of early 20th century racial science and eugenics. Fast forward to our contemporary moment and the banal ubiquity of this trope among sports commentators is well known, and was even recently panned by the comic duo Key & Peele

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , ,