Challenges of Being a Black Student Athlete on U.S. College Campuses

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Simiyu, Wycliffe W. Njororai
Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics
African American college athletes; sports; college life
article description
The purpose of this Literature review article is to examine the social, cultural, individual and institutional racist factors that pose challenges to many African American college athletes, both men and women, to develop skills outside sports that are necessary to succeed in college and life. The passion for athletics by Black youth has to be positioned within the wider racist environment that one is exposed to while growing up. The dominant presence of Blacks in the high profile sports of football, basketball and track and field while having lower graduation rates compared to White athletes deserves scholarly interrogation. This article uses the Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Student Involvement Theory frameworks to explain the phenomena of Black student athletes in College and the challenges that they encounter as they pursue both athletic and academic success. Based on Edwards’ (2000) contextualization of the Black athlete which is premised on the Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Astin’s (1984) Student Involvement Theory (SIT), this article examines the following issues: The legacy of racism and discrimination; Black athletes and labor on campus; sport and race ideology; graduation rates and the academic challenges faced by Black student athletes. The academic challenges that Black athletes face while pursuing a dual objective of excelling in athletics and getting a college education are situated within the racial laden learning environment characterizing the Predominantly White Colleges (PWC) in the U.S. This paper contends that society, institutions of higher learning and the individual student have to collaborate so as to put the athlete on a path to success in college and in life.