Friday, June 01, 2007

Professor Gill on Black Women in College Sports

The current issue of Diverse Issues in Higher Education includes a column by Dr. Emmett Gill, a professor in Rutgers's School of Social Work, on the lack of racial diversity in women's college athletics. Professor Gill acknowledges that Black female athletes are well represented in basketball and track, but suggests that this creates a false illusion that all of women's sports are racially mixed. In truth, the sports that have benefited the most from Title IX (he names soccer, lacrosse, and rowing) are overwhelmingly white.

Analogizing to the Title IX concept of proportionality, Gill compares the percentage of college students who are Black women, 12%, to the percentage of student athletes who are, 5%. This is a significant disparity about which we Title IX advocates must be concerned. Taking the analogy even further he suggests that Black women's participaton would have to increase by 347 in soccer, 434 in swimming, and 429 in rowing to be proportionally represented in those sports. (This is, to be sure, a loose analogy, as Title IX does not measure proportionality within particular sports.)

Gill criticizes Title IX advocates for talking about racial diversity in sport without taking commensurate action. He argues that more must be done to break down barriers of race and class at early, developmental levels of sport. Without disagreeing with Professor Gill, I'd like to point out one positive example about which I'm familiar: The Women's Sports Foundation sponsored a program in Boston that sought to provide access to sports for girls from communities without traditional access to sport, including communities of color, immigrant communities, and urban lower class families. Programs in sports like volleyball, rowing, ice hockey, gymnastics and tennis were among those funded. Compared to the level of investment that Professor Gill is arguing for (he points out that it would cost $14 million to develop 5700 soccer players from 5th to 12th grade) this $200,000 project in Boston is small potatoes. But hopefully it is the beginning of a trend toward the racial integration of all girls' and women's sports.

No comments: