The Race for Equality Social Change Through the Power of Sports

Today, our communities, our state and our nation struggle to effectively address long standing issues related to race and gender equality.

As citizens, neighbors, students, friends, and family members--we owe it to ourselves to support one another and find meaningful ways to safely engage in discussions and dialogue--where all voices are heard and respected and where barriers and walls of division can be lowered.

An emerging area of focus involves inviting and engaging more adults and young people, particularly those who identify as white or caucasion, into the conversation around race and anti-racism. One of the primary tools we can utilize is the bystander approach. Equipping students and young adults with skills to make a positive difference also empowers them to change the world in which they live each and every day.

“The ultimate measure of a person is not where one stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where one stands in times of challenge and controversy.” —Martin Luther King, Jr.

"It’s not a black person’s job to teach white people about racism." - Tiffany Hunter, professional hairstylist, Austin, TX

Discussion question #1: When did you first learn about, or come to understand differences in race or ethnicity? How did this make you feel?

Discussion question #2: Who's job is it to teach white people about racism? Why do you think that?

LGBTQ people of color were nearly 4 times as likely to experience physical violence. (Center for American Progress, 2016)

Open dialogue activity: Read the statement below out loud or project it up on an overhead screen in the front of the room. Invite participants to stand on the left side of the room if they AGREE with this statement. Ask those who DISAGREE to stand on the right side of the room. And finally, direct those who are UNSURE to stand in the middle.

If a friend/teammate makes a racist or biased comment towards a person of color, I need to do something.

Agree - - - - - - - - -Unsure - - - - - - Disagree

Facilitators, please ask:

Question #1: Why are you standing, where you are standing? (Begin with those in one group, and then proceed with asking the other two groups. There are no wrong answers.)

Question #2: What makes a problem "serious" for you?

Question #3: What message does “staying silent” send to the person of color? Or, to your friend/teammate who made the racist comment?

Question #4: If it’s not your business to respond in some way, who’s business is it?

"Allyship....either we’re producing and creating an unequal society, or we’re part of the struggle against it." Ibram X. Kendi

How did we get to where we are today? Why is there so much racial division and tension in our country? Food for thought....

After the Civil War ended, nine states inacted Vagrancy Laws which made it illegal not to have a job. This law was only applied to black men. In eight of the nine states, black prisoners were arrested, imprisoned and sentenced to work on the very plantations from which they were recently freed for little or no pay.

By the turn of the 20th century, every state in the south had mandated racial segregation by law - these were known as "Jim Crow" laws. White politicians passed and supported laws that "socially ostracized" or intentional excluded blacks from certain schools, churches, housing, jobs, restrooms, hotels, restaurants, hospitals, prisons, funeral homes, morgues and cemeteries.

In 1896, the Supreme Court ruled that the "Jim Crow" laws were perfectly legal, stating "...these laws reflected customs and traditions and preserved public peace and good order." Jim Crow laws were in place until 1954 when "separate but equal" was struck down by Brown v. Board of Education.

Southern states refused to follow the Brown decision and established The Southern Manifesto (1956): which created 50 new Jim Crow laws in five states. Wide spread civil rights and anti-war protests erupted - occasionally becoming violent. This inspired the political rise of "Law and Order." In 1968, 81% of Americans agreed that, "Law and order has broken down in this country." The majority of white citizens blamed communists and "negros who start riots."

From the 1930s and on into the 1960s, the federal government enacted policies to actively encouraged white families to own homes, but discouraged black families from doing the same. In 1934, the Federal Housing Administration created a "risk rating system" to determine which neighborhoods were considered safe investment for federally backed mortgages. Black neighborhoods were deemed too risky and marked off on city maps in red ink, in a practice now known as, "Redlining."

After World War II, a boom in new suburban housing occurred all around the country - most deeds were restricted to "whites only." Blacks weren't allowed to live in white neighborhoods, and yet couldn't get federally backed loans to buy in black neighborhoods. Today, the average black household has 1/10 the wealth of the average white household.

In the last 1060s and early 1970s, media and white politicians singled out impoverished black communities as contributors to increased drug use and crime rates - the War on Drugs begins. From 1981-1991, the federal government passed legislation that put billions of dollars into fighting drugs and their use - . While drug and alcohol use among whites and persons of color are statistically the same, disproportionate numbers of black and brown communities were targeted by law enforcement.

From 1993-2001, funding for public housing was cut by $17 billion dollars, at the same time funding for prisons increased by $19 billion dollars. The number of Americans imprisoned by drug crimes exploded. In 1980, 41,000 Americans were imprisoned as a result of drug-related crimes. Today, over 500,000 American are incarcerated for drug crimes - primarily, for drug possession. Police were financially incentivized to make drug-related arrests.

Prison populations overall have increased over the past 40 years. In 1980, there were 350,000 Americans imprisoned. In 2005, over 2.3 millions were locked up. Today, 32% of the US population is represented by African Americans and Hispanics, compared to 56% of the US incarcerated population being represented by African Americans and Hispanics.

Let's apply our thinking to a real-life situation.

Ask a volunteer to read the following scenario, "Exchange Zone Violation," out loud. Then, read out loud the "Train of Thought."

Exchange Zone Violation

You’re at a conference track meet sitting with some friends in a secluded section of the stadium. One of the guys in your groups points to the black runner from your school in the lead coming around the curve. He grins and says, "Last time I saw a black person run that fast they were running from the cops!" One of your friends laughs. You and the others stare straight ahead pretending not to have heard the comment. No one says anything.

Train of Thought: Did he really just say that? Why would he say that? Was that an attempt to funny? Why would someone laugh? No one else is doing anything. They're pretending nothing happened. Will my friend get angry or call me names if I say something? What should I do in this situation?

Open Dialogue to Support Critial Thinking

Typically, when we notice potentially harmful or abusive language or behavior, interpret and decide for ourselves that it’s wrong and feel a sense of responsibility to say or do something, we act.

Facilitator Notes: Below is a series of questions that can be used to explore beliefs and attitudes about race and racial inequalities and examine pro-social ways to effectively engage and "show up" within our peer groups as active bystanders.

Questions #1: Is this situation realistic? Could this happen in my peer group or in our school?

Question #2: What’s problematic about this situation? What concerns or “red flags” do you notice in this scenario?

Question #3: What responsibility might the friend(s) in this situation have to their friend who made the comment? To the others sitting around them? To the school/organization? Or, to the black runner from you school?

Question #4: Have you ever witnessed or observed a similar situation? If you are willing, please share your experience(s).

Question #5: Have you seen others intervene or get involved in situations like this before? If so, what did they do?

Question #6: Why might others in this situation choose to be silent or not get involved? What is the potential IMPACT on the black runner if no one says anything or gets involved in this situation?

Facilitator Notes: In this next portion of the activity, the focus will be to generate realistic options for friends, classmates, teammates or others to consider using should they ever find themselves in a similar situation. Keep a running list of all options.

Question #7: How might one respond “directly” in this situation? (List examples.) How might one respond “indirectly” or utilize a “distraction” in this situation? (List examples.)

Question #8: If you didn’t respond immediately in this situation, what might you consider saying or doing later on? To whom would you speak?

Question #9: To whom could you go to for guidance or support in this situation?

Question #10: After hearing different examples of responding in this situation, how might you, personally, "show up" in a situation like this? Why?

Facilitator Notes: By now you've created a list of different approaches or responses available to bystanders, i.e., friends, classmates, teammates, etc. in their efforts to "show up" in this scenario, or in one like it. Discussing the problematic issues associated with racial injustice, understanding why some observers or friends are silenced in these situations, and generating a list of ways to respond and speak out against racism helps unveil the common belief and understanding that most of us are caring and empathetic individuals. Remember, there are many ways to be a positive leader....there are many ways to be an active bystander!

Thank you for taking the time to work through, The Race for Equality. You will find additional resources located on the Iowa High School Athletic Association's webpage, as well as on the Center for Violence Prevention's website.

“Encourage people to take the fairness and respect they see in sport and translate them off the field.” #Nike #Equality

For more information on how your school can implement the MVP Bullying and Violence Prevention model, contact Dr. Alan Heisterkamp, director, Center for Violence Prevention, at (319) 273-3545, or go to CVP at UNI for more information.
For more information on how your athletic department can engage student athletes in creating and promoting positive and respectful school cultures, contact Chad Elsberry, assistant director, IHSAA, at celsberry@iahsaa, or go to IHSAA Student Services for more information.
Leadership is a skill like any other....It is a practiceable, learnable skill. It's like a muscle, if you work at it and practice it, you'll be a strong leader.

Simon Sinek


Created with images by Braden Collum - "Relay runner" • Mike Von - "George Floyd Protest" • Clay Banks - "Woman holds up sign at the Black Lives Matter protest in Washington DC 6/6/2020 (IG: @clay.banks)" • tommy boudreau - "Basketball court" • Jonathan Chng - "untitled image" • Caleb Mullins - "I’m extremely new to the photography scene and I’m not used to a lot of the terms you use, but there’s a burning passion inside for taking pictures" • Riley McCullough - "untitled image" • Serena Repice Lentini - "untitled image" • Darko Nesic - "untitled image" • Wesley Tingey - "untitled image" • John Arano - "Daily Grind" • Pocky Lee - "untitled image" • Braden Collum - "Runners in a race" • Nicolas Hoizey - "Shot during 34th international Elite athletics meeting in Montgeron-Essonne (France), Sunday, May 13th, 2018" • Bruno Nascimento - "untitled image"