“Breaking the mould”: Resisting the stereotypes of being a Black Canadian student-athlete
Keywords:student-athlete, stereotypes, male, race, education, athletics, black
This article examines how stereotypes operate in the social construction of Black Canadian male student-athletes and how those stereotypes frame these students’ lived experiences in relation to race, athletic ability, and academic performance. From qualitative interviews with twenty current and former Black Canadian student-athletes, we found that they largely resisted and challenged the stereotypes of being primarily athletes and less students. In various ways, they sought to demonstrate that they possessed the skills needed to be academically successful students with the ability to balance their athletic and academic responsibilities and commitments. This was evident in their having obtained the required grades to enter university, receiving athletic scholarships, maintaining playing eligibility, graduating from university, and going on to pursue graduate studies.
Carrington, B. (1998). Sport, masculinity, and Black cultural resistance. Journal of Sport & Social Issues, 22(3), 275–298. https://doi.org/10.1177/01937239802200300
Coakley, J. (2006). Sports in society: Issues and controversies. McGraw-Hill.
Codjoe, H. (2006). The role of an affirmed Black cultural identity and heritage in the academic achievement of African-Canadian students. Intercultural Education, 17(1), 33–54. https://doi.org/10.1080/14675980500502271
Conyers, J. L., Jr. (2014). Sacrifice, modality, inspiration and triumph: An Afrocentric analysis of race and sport in America. In J. L. Conyers Jr. (Ed.), Race in American sports: Essays (p. 245 - 253). McFarland.
Crenshaw, K. (2002). The first decade: Critical reflections, or “a foot in the closing door.” UCLA Law Review, 49(5), 1343–1372.
Delgado, R. (1989). Storytelling for oppositionists and others: A plea for narrative. Michigan Law Review, 87(8), 2411–2441. https://doi.org/10.2307/1289308
Dumas, M. J. (2016). Against the dark: Antiblackness in education policy and discourse. Theory Into Practice, 55, 11–19. https://doi.org/10.1080/00405841.2016.1116852
Durkee, M. I., Gazley, E. R., Hope, E. C., & Keels, M. (2019). Cultural invalidations: Deconstructing the “acting white” phenomenon among Black and Latinx college students. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 25(4), 451–460. https://doi.org/10.1037/cdp0000288
Dyck, N. (2006). Athletic scholarships and the politics of child rearing in Canada. Anthropological Notebooks, 12(2), 65–78.
Edwards, H. (2000). Crisis of Black athletes on the eve of the 21st century. Society, 37(3), 9–13. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02686167
Friesen, J. (2018, April 25). Canada's toughest neighbourhood. The Globe and Mail. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/canadas-toughest-neighbourhood/article1086849/
Geiger, N. M. (2013). Intercollegiate athletics in Canada and the United States: Differences in access, quality, and funding. College Quarterly, 16(3).
Gillborn, D. (2015). Intersectionality, critical race theory, and the primacy of racism: Race, class, gender, and disability in education. Qualitative Inquiry, 21(3), 277–287. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800414557827
Graves, J. L. (2004). The race myth: Why we pretend race exists in America. Dutton.
Harris, C. I. (1993). Whiteness as property. Harvard Law Review, 106(8), 1707–1791. https://doi.org/10.2307/1341787
Harrison, L., Jr., Azzarito, L., & Burden, J., Jr. (2004). Perceptions of athletic superiority: A view from the other side. Race Ethnicity and Education, 7(2), 149–166. https://doi.org/10.1080/1361332042000234277
Harrison, L., Jr., Sailes, G., Rotich, W. K., & Bimper, A. Y., Jr. (2011). Living the dream or awakening from the nightmare: Race and athletic identity. Race Ethnicity and Education, 14(1), 91–103. https://doi.org/10.1080/13613324.2011.531982
Hinton, P. R. (2019). Stereotypes and the construction of the social world. Routledge.
Hodge, S. R., Burden, J. W., Jr., Robinson, L. E., & Bennett, R. A., III. (2008). Theorizing on the stereotyping of Black male student-athletes: Issues and implications. Journal for the Study of Sports and Athletes in Education, 2(2), 203–226. https://doi.org/10.1179/ssa.2008.2.2.203
Huber, L. P. (2008). Building critical race methodologies in educational research: A research note on critical race testimonio. FIU Law Review, 4(1), 159–173. https://doi.org/10.25148/lawrev.4.1.15
Hylton, K. (2005). ‘Race’, sport and leisure: Lessons from critical race theory. Leisure Studies, 24(1), 81–98. https://doi.org/10.1080/02614360412331313494
Ibrahim, A. (2004). One is not born Black: Becoming and the phenomenon(ology) of race. Philosophy of Education Society, 35, 77–87.
James, C. E. (2010). Schooling and the university plans of immigrant Black students from an urban neighbourhood. In R. Milner IV (Ed.), Culture, curriculum, and identity in education (pp. 117–139). Palgrave MacMillan.
James, C. E. (2012). Students “at risk”: Stereotypes and the schooling of Black boys. Urban Education, 47(2), 464–494. https://doi.org/10.1177/0042085911429084
James, C. E. (2021). Colour matters: Essays on the experiences, education, and pursuits of Black youth. University of Toronto Press.
Jameson, M., Diehl, R., & Danso, H. (2007). Stereotype threat impacts college athletes’ academic performance. Current Research in Social Psychology, 12(5), 68–79.
Joseph, J., & Kuo, B. C. H. (2009). Black Canadians' coping responses to racial discrimination. Journal of Black Psychology, 35(1), 78–101. https://doi.org/10.1177/009579840832338
Kelly, P. (2000). The dangerousness of youth-at-risk: The possibilities of surveillance and intervention in uncertain times. Journal of Adolescence, 23(4), 463–476. https://doi.org/10.1006/jado.2000.0331
Ladson-Billings, G. (1998). Just what is critical race theory and what's it doing in a nice field like education? International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 11(1), 7–24. https://doi.org/10.1080/095183998236863
Ladson-Billings, G. (2011). Boyz to men? Teaching to restore Black boys’ childhood. Race Ethnicity and Education, 14(1), 7–15. https://doi.org/10.1080/13613324.2011.531977
Ladson-Billings, G., & Tate, W. F., IV. (1995). Toward a critical race theory of education. In A. D. Dixon & C. K. Rousseau (Eds.), Critical race theory in education: All God’s children got a song (pp. 11–30). Routledge.
Laws, M. (2020, June 16). Why we capitalize ‘Black’ (and not ‘white’). Columbia Journalism Review. https://www.cjr.org/analysis/capital-b-black-styleguide.php
Lewis, N. A., Jr., & Sekaquaptewa, D. (2016). Beyond test performance: A broader view of stereotype threat. Current Opinion in Psychology, 11, 40–43. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2016.05.002
Martis, E. (2020). They said this would be fun: Race, campus life, and growing up. McClelland & Stewart.
May, R. A. B. (2009). The good and bad of it all: Professional Black male basketball players as role models for young Black male basketball players. Sociology of Sport Journal, 26(3), 443–461. https://doi.org/10.1123/ssj.26.3.443
Miller, P. S., & Kerr, G. (2002). The athletic, academic and social experiences of intercollegiate student-athletes. Journal of Sport Behavior, 25(4), 346–367.
Nartey, H. (2019). Experiences of Black Canadian male student-athletes [Doctoral dissertation, University of Ottawa]. UO Research. https://ruor.uottawa.ca/handle/10393/39089
Nebeker, K. C. (1998). Critical race theory: A white graduate student’s struggle with this growing area of scholarship. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 11(1), 25–41. https://doi.org/10.1080/095183998236872
Ogbu, J. U. (2004). Collective identity and the burden of “acting white” in Black history, community, and education. The Urban Review, 36(1), 1–35. https://doi.org/10.1023/B:URRE.0000042734.83194.f6
Parsons, J. (2013). Student athlete perceptions of academic success and athlete stereotypes on campus. Journal of Sport Behavior, 36(4), 400–416.
Saul, R., & James, C. E. (2006). Framing possibilities: Representations of Black student athletes in Toronto media. Comparative and International Education, 35(1), 63–80. https://doi.org/10.5206/cie-eci.v35i1.9072
Sefa Dei, G. J. (2018). “Black like me”: Reframing Blackness for decolonial politics. Educational Studies, 54(2), 117–142. https://doi.org/10.1080/00131946.2018.1427586
Sefa Dei, G. J., & James, I. M. (1998). ‘Becoming Black’: African‐Canadian youth and the politics of negotiating racial and racialised identities. Race Ethnicity and Education, 1(1), 91–108. https://doi.org/10.1080/1361332980010107
Sheldon, J. P., Jayaratne, T. E., & Petty, E. M. (2007). White Americans’ genetic explanations for a perceived race difference in athleticism: The relation to prejudice toward and stereotyping of Blacks. Athletic Insight: The Online Journal of Sport Psychology, 9(3), 31–56.
Shizha, E. (2016). Marginalization of African Canadian students in mainstream schools: Are Afrocentric schools the answer? In A. Ibrahim & A. A. Abdi (Eds.), The education of African Canadian children: Critical perspectives (pp. 187–206). McGill-Queen’s University Press.
Solorzano, D. G., & Yosso, T. J. (2001). Critical race and LatCrit theory and method: Counter-storytelling. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 14(4), 471–495. https://doi.org/10.1080/09518390110063365
Spaaij, R., Farquharson, K., & Marjoribanks, T. (2015). Sport and social inequalities. Sociology Compass, 9(5), 400–411. https://doi.org/10.1111/soc4.12254
Steele, C. M., & Aronson, J. (1995). Stereotype threat and the intellectual test performance of African Americans. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69(5), 797–811. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35126.96.36.1997
Thiessen, V. (2009). The pursuit of postsecondary education: A comparison of First Nations, African, Asian, and European Canadian youth. Canadian Review of Sociology/Revue canadienne de sociologie, 46(1), 5–37. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1755-618X.2009.01201.x
U SPORTS. (2018, September 21). Student-athlete info. https://usports.ca/en/about/student-athlete-info
Walcott, R. (2001). Caribbean pop culture in Canada; Or, the impossibility of belonging to the nation. Small Axe, 5(1), 123–139. https://doi.org/10.1353/smx.2001.0011
Wilson, B., & Sparks, R. (1999). Impacts of Black athlete media portrayals on Canadian youth. Canadian Journal of Communication, 24(4), 1–36. https://doi.org/10.22230/cjc.1999v24n4a1127
Winant, H. (2000). Race and race theory. Annual Review of Sociology, 26, 169–185. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.soc.26.1.169
Wininger, S. R., & White, T. A. (2015). An examination of the dumb jock stereotype in collegiate student-athletes: A comparison of student versus student-athlete perceptions. Journal for the Study of Sports and Athletes in Education, 9(2), 75–85. https://doi.org/10.1179/1935739715Z.00000000036
Zamudio, M., Russell, C., Rios, F., & Bridgeman, J. L. (2011). Critical race theory matters: Education and ideology. Routledge.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2023 McGill Journal of Education / Revue des sciences de l'éducation de McGill
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Those wishing to reproduce all or part of any material published on this website are asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org for permission and to acknowledge the McGill Journal of Education as the original source.
Authors must transfer copyright of their article to MJE. Authors may use all or parts of their work in any future publication with the article's origin in MJE acknowledged in the customary manner.
A copy of our standard form may be requested from email@example.com