Playing by white rules of racial equality: student athlete experiences of racism in British university sport
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AbstractInequalities related to racial identity are consistently reported across social institutions, not least education, and sport. These inequalities consistently challenge ‘post-race’ narratives that rationalise racism down to individual prejudices and poor decision-making. This paper presents part of the findings from a wider a twelve-month research project commissioned by British University and Colleges Sport (BUCS) to explore race equality. This wider research privileged the voices of non-White students and staff in an exploration of race and equality in British UK university sport. ‘Non-white’ was chosen as a race identifier to focus on Whiteness, the normalised, raceless power that reproduces itself both knowingly and unknowingly, to ensure racial ‘others’ remain subordinate. This paper presents the findings of the student voices. In this study a research team of academic and student researchers explored the experiences of 38 students across five universities. Generating case studies from each university, the data was analysed from an Intersectional and Critical Race Theory perspective. Two core themes relating to negotiating Whiteness were developed from the data analysis which reflected experiences of university sport as predominantly White spaces; ‘Play by the Rules’ and ‘Keep You Guessing’. Racial abuse was subtle, camouflaged in comments and actions that happened momentarily and hence were implausible to capture and evidence. For incidents to be addressed, evidence had to meet a ‘beyond doubt’ standard. Students were required to consciously negotiate racial bias and abuse to ensure they did not provide a justification for abuse. Navigating racialisation and stereotypes, plus White denial, was additional emotional labour for students. This mechanism of silencing the victim served to normalise racism for both the abused and perpetrator. The conclusion explores potential ways of disrupting these mechanisms of Whiteness in placing students’ welfare at the heart of university sport.
CitationWard, G., Hill, J., Hardman, A., Scott, D., Jones, A. and Richards, R. (2023) Playing by white rules of racial equality: student athlete experiences of racism in British university sport. Sport, Education and Society. https://doi.org/10.1080/13573322.2023.2252459
JournalSport, Education and Society
Description© 2023 The authors. This is an open access article available under a Creative Commons licence. The published version can be accessed at the following link on the publisher’s website: https://doi.org/10.1080/13573322.2023.2252459
SponsorsThis work was supported by British Universities and Colleges Sport.
Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/