by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Shannon Watkins of the Martin Center investigates the claim that racism plays a role in lower college graduation rates for black male athletes.
[T]here is one sector in which academic achievement seems alarmingly low. There is a large disparity between the graduation rates of black male athletes and all others. This disparity is becoming a major issue in academia, partly because of all the recent scandals in the revenue-producing sports of football and men’s basketball, in which black athletes tend to dominate.
But it is hard to imagine that academia will actually address the issue honestly. Instead, the Ivory Tower will rely on studies that avoid the real causes of the problems, such as a report that is gaining traction in policy circles produced by Shaun R. Harper, a University of Southern California education professor and the executive director of the USC Race and Equity Center. His 2018 report, entitled “Black Male Student Athletes and Racial Inequities in NCAA Division I College Sports,” was featured at a March 20th meeting of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Faculty Athletics Committee in which the institution’s poor report card concerning athlete’s graduation rates was discussed.
One of Harper’s main takeaways from his research is reflected in his statement: “[P]erhaps nowhere in higher education is the disenfranchisement of black male students more insidious than in college athletics.” …
… It appears that Faison and Harper’s conclusions, along with a large array of scholarship on black athletes, are rooted in Critical Race Theory (CRT)—a theory that holds that “race and races are products of social thought and relations” and that “because racism advances the interests of both white elites (materially) and working-class people (psychically), large segments of society have little incentive to eradicate it.”
Within the CRT perspective, it is common to conclude that black student-athletes at “predominately White institutions” drop out at staggering rates because they are subject to racist stereotyping and low expectations.
But such conclusions may mask the real cause of the problems. Ille asserted that the issue was not connected to admissions because student-athletes’ scores and grades are frequently evaluated and compared to those of other institutions. However, in itself, Ille’s response is proof of nothing. The real question is whether student-athletes’ academic backgrounds are sufficient for the institution they attend, not how they compare to other schools.