Black Duke Student Athletes Host ‘Black Bodies, White Entertainment’ Panel About Life At A PWI

Duke University

Black Duke Student Athletes Host ‘Black Bodies, White Entertainment’ Panel About Life At A PWI

“It looks a lot like slavery.”

Published November 1, 2019

Written by Vanessa Etienne

Four students at Duke University hosted a panel to discuss the unique experience of being a Black student-athlete at a predominantly white institution (PWI) on Wednesday (Oct. 30).

The panel was moderated by Martin Paul Smith, a former college athlete and assistant professor. Hosted by the Center for Race Relations, the panel, entitled “Black Bodies, White Entertainment,” discussed how Black athletes are often viewed as not being as smart as their classmates. 

Kyra Lambert, point guard for the women’s basketball team and graduate student at the Fuqua School of Business, said she finds herself trying extra hard to prove herself, according to the Chronicle.

And junior Damani Neal, a safety on the football team majoring in sociology, added, “I might play a sport, I might be Black, but I’m here for a reason, just like you all.” 

Neal continued to point out the disconnect between coaches and athletes because of race. 

The Chronicle reported that Smith asked students how they felt about their predominantly white coaches dealing with the money they generate as athletes, while the athletes' scholarships could be revoked if they touch that money themselves.

“I’m just going to rip the Band-Aid off. It looks a lot like slavery,” Lambert said. 

Neal said the response many of them get is: “Well, you’re getting your degree for free,” but the students are still hurting physically and emotionally, comparing it to how slaves felt after being granted papers. 

Despite the frustrating experience many Black student athletes have at PWIs, all who attended said they wouldn’t have played sports at a Historically Black College or University (HBCU), according to the Duke Chronicle.

All four students explained that HBCUs lack strong sports teams, which led them to choosing Duke, a PWI.

The idea of the panel was inspired by Jamele Hill’s article “It’s Time for Black Athletes to Leave White Colleges,” where she brought up similar topics. But many disagreed with their viewpoints.

One point all the Duke panelists emphasized while being athletes at a PWI was to remain yourself despite often being overwhelmed.

(Photo: Lance King/Getty Images)

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