Berkeley High School’s demographics reflect the diverse ethnic and cultural community of Berkeley, yet sports teams at school don’t reflect the multiplicities of the school’s vibrant community. For example, African-Americans at BHS are the majority in sports such as basketball and football.
Of the seven athletes interviewed, all acknowledged the lack of racial diversity amongst BHS sports teams. Badminton player, Amira Harara believes that this disparity comes from the students, who are attempting to conform to stereotypes.
Harara said, “There are racial stereotypes within our school that students feel forced to adhere to.”
Moreover, Amira emphasized the immorality of these stereotypes. “The idea that only black people should just play football and basketball while white people play cross country and lacrosse is just wrong,” she said.
But BHS senior Jaden Lewis indicated that racial disparity, especially on the lacrosse team, may stem from the cost of participating.
Lewis said lacrosse is a, “typically rich, white sport”, and, “a possible reason for this could be the expense.”
Lewis added that beside the general expense of the sport, “[lacrosse] typically lacks a sense of community when it comes to fundraising,” said Lewis. Sports are also seen as a way to achieve success and pursue higher learning in the black community. With sports scholarships one can attend a universitiy, like senior lacrosse and football player Ty Delaney, who has received a sports scholarship to Albany College.
Another theory, used to validate the racial disparity in football and basketball, is that African American youths receive more positive reinforcement for athletic success than they do in academics. In sports this strength and force is allowed to be expressed freely on the field, unless it is connected to a political voice.
We have many examples of black male athletes, from boxer Muhammad Ali to the more recent Colin Kaepernick, who have been persecuted for exercising their freedom of expression during sports events.
Whether students are unknowingly upholding stereotypes, unable to meet the costs of a sport they would like to play, pursuing scholarships, or even looking for a way to freely express themselves, there is no excuse for a school such as ours to remain segregated on the field.
Of the students interviewed, all acknowledged the lack of diversity on their teams, but they also repeatedly said that their teams are like family to them. BHS is brimming with athletic talent, and students excel in the classrooms and on the field across grades and small schools.
How can we as a school combat this contradiction? Last week, kneeling for the national anthem, as a protest of injustice, was a beautiful display of unity.
We showed that coming together as a school is the best way to solve this ongoing issue.